by Syma Mohammed

WINTER is likely to put extra pressure on Scotland's NHS thanks to a triple whammy of bad weather, flu and staff shortages, a leading medical expert has said.

Lewis Morrison, chair of British Medical Association Scotland, said: “Winter is commonly an extremely busy time for the NHS. A range of issues, like cold weather and increased flu cases, often cause substantial spikes in demand that the system and the people working in it struggle to cope with.

“While we need to see how these factors impact on care this year, there is little to suggest this winter will be any different. Last year we warned that winter is simply a time when these pressures become more extreme and more in focus. Indeed our members – and NHS staff across Scotland - face huge challenges across the whole year.

New figures show that one fifth of calls to the NHS 24 are for flu-like symptoms over the festive season.

The Scottish Government said that it had already provided extra funding over the 2018/19 period because of the additional pressures winter creates every year.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We have supported NHS boards and partners to prepare for winter to strengthen capacity. The additional £10 million announced in September, on top of £9 million already allocated to support unscheduled care all year round, ensures appropriate measures allow for people to be discharged in a timely way when it's safe to do so and patients’ long term care needs are properly assessed and the right staff are in place throughout the system. We continue to monitor the demand for unscheduled care and will support NHS boards and their partners throughout the winter.”

NHS 24 was allocated an extra £0.3 million while NHS Greater Glasgow&Clyde got an additional £2 million.