HEALTH Secretary Humza Yousaf has said he is aware of the pressures currently on NHS Fife and said the Scottish Government is looking at ways to mitigate the situation.

It follows last week's front-page Press story in which NHS Fife employee director Wilma Brown said staff were "exhausted" and "broken" due to the COVID pandemic and that the situation was "unstable", calling for action from those above.

The minister was pressed to act by Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Claire Baker during Portfolio Questions on Thursday.

The plea came after all non-urgent surgery and some outpatient appointments were postponed last month because the heath board said it was facing pressure “unlike anything we have experienced during our response to the pandemic”.

Ms Baker urged the Scottish Government to do more to ensure patients were not faced with further delays or reductions in services and called for assurances that the situation in Fife would not deteriorate further.

"NHS Fife has postponed all non-urgent surgery and some outpatient appointments already but is looking at further reducing services in order to cope," she said.

"A&E performance in Fife is at its lowest on record and among the worst in Scotland. Frontline staff are doing all they can but hospitals are already seeing more people turn up, for both COVID and non-COVID-related conditions, than they would at the height of winter.

“Many patients having their surgery or appointments postponed have already been waiting a long time to be treated and are understandably anxious about any further delay. What they need is reassurance that additional support for our NHS will be provided to ensure this situation isn’t just going to get worse through the winter.

“With the medical backlog caused by the pandemic ever-increasing, we cannot see further delays to patient care. The Scottish Government needs to step up and address this urgently, and support our NHS staff to continue delivering across all areas of healthcare.”

Mr Yousaf acknowledged that the health and care system had been under "extreme pressure" which had been exacerbated by the onset of the pandemic.

"I meet with NHS boards up and down the country regularly and my office obviously speaks to them as well on a very regular basis so we are very aware of the pressures that NHS Fife is under but also NHS boards across the country.

"We are not sitting on our hands. We have already invested and are investing not just on these COVID pressures but also, for example, significant investment that I announced over the course of the summer for non-COVID pressures too.

"We are not spending time creating plans for the sake of creating plans. What we are doing is investing in services right across the entire NHS system.

"I hope to give more details of some of that later this week, particularly focused on a whole-system approach and that social care side we know can help us in delayed discharges.

"I think this will be the most challenging winter the NHS has ever faced. What we will do and have been doing is taking action to do our best to mitigate some of these significant pressures."

Last week, NHS Fife chief executive Carol Potter conceded there was "unrelenting pressure" on the workforce and told NHS Fife Board members they were doing everything they could to address concerns and the challenges they faced.