HUMZA Yousaf has said he has never considered resigning over record waits in A&E as he refused to say if the problem would be fixed within five years.

Labour and the Tories both said the Health Secretary should go last week, after just 63.1 per cent of patients were treated within four hours in the seven days to October 30.

The official A&E target, which has not been met nationally in Scotland since July 2020, is for 95% of patients to be admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours.

Mr Yosuaf said last week that calls for Nicola Sturgeon to sack him were “personality politics”.

Speaking on BBC Scotland’s Sunday Show this morning, Mr Yousaf was asked directly if he had considered his position.

He said: “No. The political opposition, to me, are pretty desperate, they’re desperate to make this about personalities, desperate to make it about me.”

Reminded the issue was ultimately one of competence and some of the NHS figures were “pretty dire” on his watch, Mr Yousaf said: “Well, let me just say that, if this was a problem that was just affecting Scotland and that somehow I was the problem or just the SNP were the problem, then you wouldn't see these significant challenges being played out right across the rest of the UK.

“Scotland's A&E performance is over 8% better than Wales and England.

“The context is exceptionally important here.

“The context here is that these are not just problems facing Scotland's health service, they're faced across the health services right across the UK. 

“So what I would say to the opposition, and it's a challenge to them, come up with one single constructive idea on how we can better improve our health service and one that is frankly costed - there's no more money down the back of the sofa.

“So suggestions of simply increasing pay without telling us where that comes from are not credible.”

Mr Yousaf also said the figure of 63.1% of patients being seen on time in A&E was “not an acceptable standard” and he had made that clear to health boards.

However he could promise it would not fall even lower this winter, given the unpredictable nature of the Covid virus and the possibility of bad weather increasing trips, slips and falls.

He said his focus was on freeing up space in A&E beds by ensuring those patients delayed in hospital because of problems finding places in care were moved to the right place.

He said: “There is not a silver bullet here. The focus has to be on trying to free up capacity. 

“That's where my focus is. So we're working hand in glove with local government, with care providers, to make sure that every single spare care home bed in the country has been filled, whether it's for step down care or interim care, we will make sure that we are using all the capacity we can to free up that capacity in really busy acute sites.”

Asked when the target of treating 95% of A&E patients within four hours would be met, Mr Yousaf said: “I don't think we're going to see that 95% target being hit over the course of this winter. I think it would be foolish of me to suggest that that's going to be the case.”

Asked if it would take five years to hit the target, given he said it would take five years for the NHS in Scotland to recover from the pandemic, Mr Yousaf refused to say.

He replied: “I'm not going to speculate on exactly when we're going to get to that 95% target.

“I think we have to go through milestones, step by step, get ourselves into a position where we can cope with what is going to be the most difficult and most challenging winter I can the NHS has ever seen, and then continue to make progress.”