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A&E patients waiting over four hours reaches second highest level ever

The number of patients waiting longer than the the target time in A&E was the second highest on record, new figures showed (Peter Byrne/PA)
The number of patients waiting longer than the the target time in A&E was the second highest on record, new figures showed (Peter Byrne/PA)

A total of 8,568 Scots spent more than four hours in accident and emergency the latest weekly figures have showed – with this the second highest total on record.

In the week ending June 19, 68.1% of patients attending at A&E were admitted, transferred or discharged within the Scottish Government’s target time.

Of the 26,878 people who went to A&E that week, there were 2,262 patients who were there for more than eight hours, with 793 there for 12 hours or more.

  • 26,878 people attended at A&E
  • 8,568 waited more than four hours to be admitted, transferred or discharged
  • 2,262 took more than eight hours to be admitted, transferred or discharged
  • 793 took more than 12 hours to be admitted, transferred or discharged

Meanwhile, the only time the number not dealt with in four hours has been higher was in the week ending March 20, when the treatment time target was missed for 8,631 patients.

Only two health boards in Scotland achieved the Scottish Government target of treating 95% of patients within four hours – with NHS Western Isles and NHS Shetland dealing with 96.8% and 95.9% within this time frame respectively.

In NHS Forth Valley, which has only one hospital with A&E facilities, 52.8% of patients were seen within the target time.

Medics at Glasgow’s flagship Queen Elizabeth University Hospital dealt with 42.3% of A&E patients within four hours, with staff at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh treating 49.3% in the target time.

In the wake of the figures, opposition politicians at Holyrood claimed the Scottish Government had “taken its eye off the ball” when it comes to the NHS.

Conservative health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane said waits for treatment would lead to ‘needless deaths’ (Fraser Bremner/Scottish Daily Mail/PA)

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane said: “The most shocking thing about these dire – and worsening – waiting-time stats is that they no longer come as a shock to us.

“But while we’ve grown used to around 30% of patients not being seen within the SNP’s target timescale, we can never simply accept that as the norm, because the stark reality is it’s leading to needless deaths.

“That’s sadly inevitable, especially when so many patients are having to wait an intolerable 12 hours or more to be seen.”

Dr Gulhane added: “It’s clear that Humza Yousaf’s flimsy Covid recovery plan simply isn’t fit for purpose because the SNP’s appalling workforce planning has left Scotland’s NHS permanently under-resourced, whatever tinkering the Health Secretary does.

“Neither patients nor exhausted frontline staff deserve this permanent crisis fuelled by a Government more focused on independence than healthcare.”

Scottish Labour health spokesperson Jackie Baillie noted that the latest A&E statistics came on the same day as the First Minister’s statement on how she hopes to deliver a second independence referendum.

Ms Baillie blasted: “These shocking figures confirm that things in our NHS are getting worse rather than better, but the SNP have taken their eye off the ball once again.

“Soaring levels of delayed discharge are costing us millions, piling pressure on other services, and worsening patient outcomes.

“Dedicated health and care staff are working tirelessly to stop services falling into total chaos, but there is only so much they can do when there is such a dangerous vacuum in leadership.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP commented: “Waiting times in our A&E departments are getting worse. Week after week we are seeing NHS patients and staff in need of new hope, but little significant action from this SNP/Green Government to provide it.

“Patients deserve to be seen for treatment quickly and close to home, and staff shouldn’t be constantly overwhelmed, but under the SNP that seems less likely than ever.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The latest weekly figures show that more than two-thirds of patients are being seen within the four-hour target, despite the unprecedented impact of the pandemic on services.

“Our new Urgent and Unscheduled Care Collaborative programme, which is supported by £50 million of funding, looks to support the implementation of a range of measures to reduce A&E waiting times and improve patient experience, this includes alternatives to hospital-based treatment.

“We continue to see high levels of Covid transmission and people in our hospitals with the virus which is putting pressure on our A&E services. We are encouraging people to think carefully before going to A&E.

“For many, A&E will not be the right place for their healthcare need. People should consider whether their condition is an emergency, such as a stroke, heart attack or major trauma.

“If you think you need to go to A&E, but it is not an emergency, you can call NHS 24 on 111. Local GPs can be contacted during the day for non-critical care, as well as local pharmacies.

“Scotland continues to have the best performing A&Es in the UK, outperforming those in England, Wales and Northern Ireland for over six years.”