The Health Secretary has blamed the cumulative impact of the pandemic for delayed discharges, amid warnings from clinicians that emergency departments are under more pressure than ever. 

Humza Yousaf has said the aftermath of Covid-19 has led to "probably the most pressured time any clinicians working in any department has ever felt".

It comes as the chair of the Scottish junior doctors committee at the BMA, Dr Lailah Peel, told BBC Radio Scotland that the number of people turning up at A&E fell but delays in discharges is building up pressure on accident and emergency departments. 

Mr Yousaf said people are showing up to hospitals with "high acuity" meaning they are sicker. 

"That often means they're staying in for longer, but also of course we're still dealing with a real challenge in social care," he said.

"Again the cumulative impact of the pandemic which means our delayed discharges, for example, are far higher than I would want them to be.

"But also because people are maybe not being able to get the care at home packages they desperately need, they're ending up with those trips, slips and falls, particularly the elderly, and back in the front door again. 

"So it is really difficult cycle given the whole system is completely interconnected."

He added that delays in getting people out of A&E department is one of the "most significant challenges we are dealing with because of that cumulative impact of the pandemic". 

Meanwhile, spending on NHS bank and agency staff has almost doubled since 2014, new figures show.

NHS workforce statistics published last week show £423.4 million was paid out in the 2021-22 financial year for locum doctors and dentists and agency and bank nurses.

The spend was labelled a “damning indictment of the SNP’s wasteful and inefficient management of our NHS” by the Scottish Conservative health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane. 

However, the Health Secretary said this was done to ensure the NHS "wasn't completely on its knees" when staff contracted Covid themselves. 

"Staff in the NHS were not immune from the effects of Covid.  They were having to go off. 

"Of course, so that our NHS wasn't completely on his knees we'd have to bring people in from agency or from locum or wherever we could find them."

Meanwhile, Dr Gulhane said: “Having been both fully employed and a locum doctor with the NHS, I know that locum doctors and nurses are an essential part of our healthcare service – but under the SNP, they have become a crutch for our chronically understaffed system.

“Hospitals are crying out for full-time doctors and nurses, yet instead of focusing on growing the robust, permanent workforce Scotland needs, the SNP has allowed dangerous staffing shortages to arise across the country while papering over the cracks with temporary staff.

“Some of this locum spending will have even gone towards permanent staff or retirees begged to take on extra shifts in order to plug the enormous gaps in the workforce.

“It is also particularly concerning to see such huge increases in spending on agency staff, as this not only comprises the salaries of temporary doctors and nurses, but fees paid to the private agencies that supply them, as well.

“Our NHS workforce is rapidly reaching a crisis point and unless (Health Secretary) Humza Yousaf urgently commits to an ambitious overhaul of workforce planning, this wasteful, dysfunctional system will only get worse.”