NICOLA Sturgeon told MSPs that "patients and the public have a right to be angry and frustrated right now" at the state of the NHS.

But, she said the Scottish Government was addressing lengthy waiting times and insisted the situation was improving. 

Speaking at First Minister's Questions, the SNP leader also revealed that today's last-ditch pay negotiations between Health Secretary Humza Yousaf and the Royal College of Nursing have been postponed to allow the SNP minister to vote on the Gender Recognition Reform Bill.

Ms Sturgeon said her colleague would now meet with the union tomorrow.

It comes after members of the RCN overwhelmingly voted to reject the Scottish Government’s “final and best” pay offer. 

Ministers had offered 7.5 per cent, but the nurses had asked for inflation plus 5%.

READ MORE: Yousaf in last ditch talks to stop nurses strike but with no new money

Announcing the result of the ballot, the RCN said they would now be preparing for strike action in the new year. 

Asked about the looming industrial action, the First Minister told MSPs: “We will do everything we can to avoid industrial action in our National Health Service. And we have, unlike England, Wales and Northern Ireland, so far avoided industrial action in our health service. 

“And we'll do that because we want to obviously avoid the disruption that that will bring to patients across the country, but we also want to do that because we value those who work in our national health service and I want to make sure they get the best possible pay rise that we can give them.”

The First Minister said the government had “maximized what we can do within this financial year”

She also said the average offer in Scotland was more generous than the pay deals put forward by the governments in England and Wales. 

“That is a sign of how deeply we value our healthcare workers. And we will continue to have discussions, meaningful discussions, to do everything possible to reward them appropriately and to avoid any disruption in our health service.”


Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said the unions were not just striking over pay. 

“They're warning about patient safety and conditions in our hospitals,” he told the First Minister. 

“More than a year ago, the Health Secretary announced the catch-up plan for our NHS, but things are getting worse for patients. In August 2021, when the catch-up plan was announced 76% of people going to a&e were seen within four hours. That has now fallen to 62%. 

“In July to September 2021, 83% of people were being seen within the 62-day standard for cancer treatment. That has now fallen to 74.7%.

"When the catch-up plan was launched 64% of patients were being seen within the legally binding 12-week treatment time guarantee. That has now fallen to 56%.

"Patients and staff are crying out for this government to get a grip. The catch-up plan has failed. Why is the government persisting with this failing plan and when will they bring forward a new one?”

Ms Sturgeon said that in the months since plan was published, the NHS had been hit by “further waves of Covid.” 

“The pressures on our NHS have increased and we have seen waiting times deteriorate as a result of that,” she told MSPs. 

However, the First Minister said that there was progress being made, particularly around waits for inpatient treatment and child and adolescent mental health (CAMHS) waits. 

Mr Sarwar disagreed. “The fact that the First Minister cannot escape from is the performance is getting worse, not better since the catch-up plan,” he said. 

“And failures have consequences. Patients are being asked to accept the unacceptable and staff are being asked to do the impossible, and lives are being lost. 

“On nearly every measure things are worse than when the Health Secretary launched the catch-up plan.

“So let's look at this government's report card against her own performance standards. A&E waiting times – failed. Delayed discharge – failed. CAMHS waiting times – failed. 12 weeks first outpatient appointment – failed. 18 weeks referral to treatment – failed. Cancer treatment times – failed. Detect cancer early – failed. GP waits – failed. Treatment time guarantee – failed. 

“When will the First Minister wake up and realize that when it comes to the National Health Service, this first minister and this health secretary have failed?”

Ms Sturgeon accused Mr Sawrar of “soundbites and faux anger.”

She told MSPs “Patients and the public have a right to be angry and frustrated right now. But they also have a right to expect a government that is addressing these issues. 

“I am not and haven't stood here and suggested that there are not significant and, over recent months, increasing challenges on the NHS and therefore on the performance measures that we have in the National Health Service. 

“We are seeing that across England, Wales, Northern Ireland, health services across the world, as the continuing impact of the pandemic and the other pressures on our NHS right now mount. 

“That's why we are increasing investment beyond any consequential funding next year for the NHS. A billion pounds extra. Asking those who earn the most in this country to pay a bit more in tax so that we can give more resources to National Health Service. 

“We're continuing to support record recruitment and numbers of staff in the National Health Service and we are starting to see progress on the longest waits.

“What is happening here is that demand is going up. In many of these performance indicators, the NHS is treating more patients but there are more patients coming forward for treatment.

"So nobody knows better than I do, the Health Secretary, the Government, the challenges that we face here, which is why we remain focused on supporting at NHS through these challenges in the various ways that I've set out.”