As winter looms, the spotlight intensifies on the critical issues facing the NHS in Ayrshire and throughout Scotland.

Concerns about the healthcare system strain persist, with accusations that the SNP government has sidestepped the reality of a healthcare crisis.

The SNP tends to deflect accountability by selectively comparing healthcare statistics with the rest of the UK or attributing challenges solely to the pandemic.

However, they contend that pre-existing issues, such as extended waiting times, scarce GP appointments, and overworked NHS staff, have been exacerbated by Covid-19 rather than created by it.

Despite the pandemic's conclusion, it is now clear that the SNP government has not provided the necessary resources for NHS recovery.

That’s why we’re seeing over a third of patients in NHS Ayrshire and Arran waiting longer than the target time of four hours to be seen in our A&E departments.

And it’s why we’re continuing to see hundreds of patients waiting beyond 12 hours to be treated.

Beyond A&E concerns, delayed discharge has surged, tying up more than 6,000 bed days in Ayrshire in September alone.

This means that patients who should be at home recovering are stuck in hospital due to a lack of appropriate support and post-hospital care.

This exacerbates pressure on NHS staff and impedes beds that could be used for patients in need.

Issues also extend to cancer detection, where the SNP consistently falls short of the 62-day standard target from diagnosis to treatment.

The Ayrshire community deserves better. We need a government to focus on NHS recovery and preparation for winter challenges.

Allegations against the SNP health secretary, including an £11,000 expense scandal, have further fuelled discontent. Such distractions hinder the support and morale of our hardworking NHS professionals.

To address systemic NHS problems, we need to see adequate resources, support, and strategic planning. This would enable healthcare professionals to deliver the high-quality care that our Ayrshire community deserves.

But first, we need a health secretary fully focused on delivering for the NHS, not on saying whatever it takes to save his own skin.

The First Minister must do the right thing and appoint a health secretary who will put the public before themselves.

Otherwise, it will be the staff and the patients in NHS Ayrshire and Arran who will suffer this winter.