Humza Yousaf has pledged reduce the number of patients waiting too long for NHS treatment as he announced that £30 million will be spent on tackling the issue over the next three months.

The cash is the first tranche from a total pot of £300 million which the Scottish Government has pledged to spend addressing backlogs in the health service over the next three years.

The initial cash will be targeted to waiting lists built up during the Covid pandemic, including for orthopaedic treatment and diagnostic tests for those suspected of having cancer, as well as speeding up care for patients who have suffered the longest waits.

By the end of 2023, there were 824,725 people in Scotland waiting for a planned procedure, an outpatient appointment, or diagnostic tests such as CT scans and colonoscopies on the NHS.

The statistics from Public Health Scotland revealed that this included 17,761 Scots who had been waiting 18 months or more to be admitted to hospital for inpatient or day case treatment, despite a previous pledge to eradicate such lengthy waits by September 2023.

More than 7000 had been waiting at least two years, while 1,446 patients had been on the list for three years or longer.


The Scottish Government estimates its £300m investment will cut the number of patients on NHS waiting lists by 100,000 patients over the next three years.

Mr Yousaf announced the initial £30m spend during an Easter Monday visit to the National Treatment Centre in Fife, which was opened exactly one year ago.

He said: "This initial investment of £30 million will target reductions to national backlogs that built up through the pandemic, including orthopaedic treatment, diagnostics for cancer referrals and patients with the longest waits.

"This is all part of our programme to drive up productivity and tackle waiting lists, supported by the Centre for Sustainable Delivery."

The Herald: Thousands of patients in Scotland have been waiting over two or three years for a planned procedureThousands of patients in Scotland have been waiting over two or three years for a planned procedure (Image: PA)

Mr Yousaf added: "Together, our actions will further enable NHS Scotland to maximise capacity, build greater resilience and deliver year-on-year reductions in the number of patients who have waited too long for treatment."

Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary Dr Sandesh Gulhane accused the First Minister of being "reduced to highlighting pledges he made months ago".

The £300m investment was first announced in October last year.

Since then progress on the remaining National Treatment Centres (NTCs) - the network of dedicated elective hubs intended to ramp up NHS activity - has been stalled as a result of spiralling costs and capital budget constraints. 

Only three NTCs – in Highland, Fife and phase one of the Golden Jubilee expansion – are operational.

Forth Valley and Golden Jubilee Phase 2 are due to open later in 2024, but NTCs in Ayrshire, Aberdeen, Perth, Livingston, Lanarkshire and the new Lothian Eye Pavilion are on hold after health boards were told by the Scottish Government in February to "pause" work on any building projects that had not yet passed certain development milestones.

Mr Gulhane added: “Since [October 2023] waiting times have continued to spiral for suffering patients and the pause button has been hit on the construction of vital new healthcare facilities across the country.

“The First Minister still cannot accept the overwhelming failures of his flimsy NHS Recovery Plan, which was produced over two and a half years ago.

“Frontline services remain in crisis and it is my dedicated colleagues and patients desperate for treatment who are paying the price for his inaction.

“Humza Yousaf needs to do better than recycling promises – only for them to fail – and drive down waiting times as a matter of urgency.

"If he wants somewhere to start, he should adopt the bold policies in our health paper which would deliver a modern, efficient and local health service.”