Scottish NHS to quadruple intensive care beds

  • Published
Media caption,
'We are planning to quadruple our ICU capacity' - Freeman

The number of intensive care beds in Scotland is to be quadrupled as part of efforts to fight coronavirus.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman told MSPs that "good progress" was being made increasing the capacity of wards.

And she said a network of Covid-19 assessment centres was to be set up across Scotland, with 50 planned in the first instance.

It came as Nicola Sturgeon said two more people with the virus had died in Scotland, bringing the total to 16.

The first minister also said 584 people had now tested positive for coronavirus - up from 499 on Monday - although she warned that this figure "will be an underestimate".

Stringent new measures to curb the spread of the virus and ease pressure on health services were announced on Monday, with Ms Sturgeon saying they amount to a "lockdown".

She reiterated this in a statement to MSPs on Tuesday, emphasising that people "must stay at home" in order to save lives.

The first minister also provided further information about which businesses should still be open and who should be going out to work - urging construction sites to close unless they are working on vital projects such as hospital buildings.

Coronavirus in Scotland. .  Updated at 13:45 on 24 March 2020.

Ms Freeman later told the Scottish Parliament that "good progress" was being made on expanding intensive care unit (ICU) capacity, with space being freed up to quadruple the number of ICU beds to over 700.

She said a "pipeline of ventilators is slated to come to Scotland over the coming weeks to enable this increase and we are working with suppliers to do all we can so they can be brought here as soon as is humanly possible".

The health secretary said hospital parking charges would be scrapped in Dundee, Glasgow and Edinburgh, but said patients with worsening symptoms should first dial 111 for help rather than go to hospital.

She said callers to this line would be assessed and called back by new community hubs where senior clinicians are stationed.

And she said in some cases patients would need to be seen in new Covid-19 assessment centres, an initial 50 of which are planned across Scotland.

Image caption,
Nicola Sturgeon extended her condolences to all families who have lost loved ones

A network of humanitarian assistance centres is to be set up, working with GPs and other local partners to arrange delivery of medicine, care services and grocery delivery.

Ms Freeman also said the government was working to secure more protective equipment for frontline staff, and to prioritise testing in hospitals so staff could get back to work as quickly as possible.

The Scottish Greens had said it was "absolutely critical" for ministers to prioritise getting tests to frontline staff so that doctors and nurses are not "forced off work".

Ms Sturgeon said that staying home was "the only way of saving lives". People have been urged to only leave the house for:

  • essential shopping for food or medicines, once per day
  • for exercise, once a day
  • for medical reasons or the care of vulnerable people
  • to travel to and from essential work.

The first minister said: "I know how hard this is for everybody, but people should not be meeting friends or family members outside home.

"Life should not be feeling normal - if it is, you are not sticking to the rules."

She urged anyone who can work from home to do so, saying business should take the lead in a "horrendously difficult situation" and not leave employees to "anguish over whether they should go in to work".

Ms Sturgeon said firms should ask themselves if their work was "contributing something essential to the fight against coronavirus" or the wellbeing of the nation.

MSPs have also formally backed emergency Westminster legislation which gives the government wide-ranging powers to tackle the outbreak and enforce the "lockdown".

Members will now not sit in the Holyrood chamber again for more than a week, with Thursday's session of first minister's questions cancelled.

Ms Sturgeon told MSPs that they would meet one day a week rather than three "until the Easter recess at least".