Hospitals could be facing crisis after ambulance and medical staff overwhelmingly backed industrial action amid ongoing pay disputes.
The GMB said ambulance workers backed strike action by 89%, along with 98% of Greater Glasgow and Clyde NHS members, 97% in Lanarkshire, 94% in Forth Valley and 88% in Lothian.
Physiotherapy staff in NHS Scotland have also voted in favour of walkouts in their first ever ballot on pay, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy announced on Tuesday.
A 5% pay rise had been offered to all staff – with an improvement tabled to up the percentages for the lowest paid employees.
Mr Yousaf visited Bangholm Medical Centre in Edinburgh on Wednesday as he launched a campaign to advise patients where to access healthcare as the winter season approaches.
He told the PA news agency: “There is no way of sugar-coating it. If strikes do go ahead, then it would be catastrophic for the health service and for the people that we serve.
“But I will spend every waking moment doing my best to try to alleviate those strikes from happening.
“We’ve still to wait for the largest health union to come back in terms of the offer that’s been put to its membership and once we hear back from Unison, of course, we will decide what the next course of action will be.”
Mr Yousaf previously said Scotland’s health sector is facing its toughest challenges since the beginning of the NHS, as it attempts to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr Yousaf continued: “I’m disappointed that some trade unions have rejected a deal which is offering an above inflation increase to those that are the lowest paid, and a 7% increase over all. It is a package worth almost half a billion pounds. It’s a significant pay offer by anybody’s definition.”
He said there is “no more money on the table”, and added: “This is the final offer. If there’s discussion to be had about how to distribute that £480 million, well those are discussions that I’m happy to be a part of, but I’m afraid there’s not a penny more.”