MSPs have demanded answers to a string of questions from the Health Secretary - calling on her to address concerns “a significant proportion” of NHS workers are “both physically and emotionally exhausted”.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman appeared before Holyrood’s Health Committee last week and was grilled by MSPs on the Scottish Government’s preparedness for the Covid-19 pandemic. Ms Freeman stressed that the toll the pandemic has taken on frontline staff may mean they need time to recover before the NHS attempts to restore some medical services that have been paused.

Ms Freeman indicated that before pressing ahead with re-opening treatment, “we need to retain a capacity to ensure that we can cope with a second wave, if one comes”.

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She added: “We also have a health service in which a significant proportion of the workforce are both physically and emotionally exhausted from the efforts that they have made to address the immediate pandemic response that has gone on for very many weeks.

“The RCN, BMA, Unison and many others have made that point. We therefore need to create the space for that group of staff to recover. That will mean, for example, that the group of returners whom we secured to respond to the pandemic might have to be held on to for longer in order to allow recovery time for the staff.”

Now, MSPs have asked Ms Freeman to respond to a host of remaining questions within the next month.

In a letter to the Health Secretary, Lewis Macdonald, the committee convener, has asked for “more of an indication of the numbers of staff affected” and has called on her to “provide the numbers of returners who have been deployed and in what capacities”. He has further asked whether these members of staff will continue to be employed and “if so, on what basis”.

MSPs have also raised concerns over the use of community planning partnerships (CPP) - amid fears of a “command and control approach” to managing the Covid-19 outbreak.

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The letter adds: “Finally there was reference throughout the answers provided to the role of local regional and national planning networks and it would be helpful to the committee to have a greater understanding of how the overall structure works and worked in practice, and the role played by the local and regional networks in providing locally-based and perhaps patient-centred input during the pandemic.

“The submissions received by the committee were generally critical of the use of the CPP networks and responsibilities giving the impression of a command and control approach from the centre leading to confusion, waste and duplication of effort.”