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A&E patient waited 15 hours for triage, figures show

NHS triage data was released (Jeff Moore/PA)
NHS triage data was released (Jeff Moore/PA)

A hospital patient waited more than 15 hours to be triaged at an accident and emergency department last year, figures obtained by the Scottish Conservatives show.

More than 650,000 patients waited longer than 15 minutes to be triaged at A&E units across Scotland in 2022, according to data revealed under freedom of information requests.

Tory health spokesman Sandesh Gulhane said the figures for initial assessments of patients at A&E are “terrifying”.

Guidance for the NHS in England states that patients should be given initial assessments within 15 minutes of arrival.

In total, 654,438 patients had to wait longer than 15 minutes to be triaged by NHS staff north of the border in 2022.

The longest wait was recorded as 906 minutes – more than 15 hours – in NHS Lanarkshire.

Coronavirus – Tue Jan 11, 2022
Sandesh Gulhane said the figures reveal the state of the NHS (Fraser Bremner/PA)

Dr Gulhane said: “These terrifying and unacceptable stats put Scotland’s A&E crisis in sharp perspective.

“Triaging is the first – and arguably most important – stage of patients’ passage through our emergency wards.

“It’s a potentially life-saving assessment that allows medics to prioritise and treat the most seriously unwell patients immediately.

“For those with severe chest pains, a delay to them being triaged could be the difference between dying from a heart attack or surviving.

“Modelling by experts tells us that, currently, 60 people are dying every week because of excess A&E waits in Scotland – and in many cases that will start with delays to them being triaged.

“The fact that such a colossal number of patients are not being triaged quickly enough is a symptom of the crisis in A&E that sees records for overall waiting times broken on almost a weekly basis on (Health Secretary) Humza Yousaf’s watch.

“This failure is the product of both his flimsy Covid and winter recovery plans and years of dire workforce planning by successive SNP health secretaries, which has left Scotland’s A&E wards dangerously short of emergency doctors and nurses.”

Humza Yousaf
The Tories said NHS targets are continually being missed on Health Secretary Humza Yousaf’s watch (PA)

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “Pandemic backlogs, inflation costs and Brexit influencing staff shortages have all contributed to make this winter the most challenging the NHS has ever faced.

“Extraordinary rises in flu and increases in Covid and Strep A have heightened pressure on already stretched services.

“We are doing everything we can to help the health service through the remainder of the most challenging winter in its history.

“This includes easing delayed discharge by purchasing additional care beds for those who are fit to leave hospital, and ensuring adequate resource is in place for NHS24.

“Our ambulance service staff are also providing treatment, where appropriate, to help avoid hospital admission.

“Our resilience committee is monitoring the situation in emergency departments extremely closely and we remain in daily contact with health boards.

“Our thanks to all health and care staff for their extraordinary efforts during these exceptionally challenging times.”

The spokesman said “emergency care will always be there for those who need it”, but encouraged people to use NHS24 or visit the NHS Inform website before attending A&E.