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Government urged to act over accident and emergency ‘crisis’

The Scottish Government is facing calls to deal with the ‘crisis’ in hospital accident and emergency departments (Peter Byrne/PA)
The Scottish Government is facing calls to deal with the ‘crisis’ in hospital accident and emergency departments (Peter Byrne/PA)

Ministers are being urged to address the “crisis” in Scotland’s accident and emergency departments as new figures showed that three out of 10 patients waited longer than the four-hour target time in the first full week of June.

Of the 27,034 patients who attended at A&E in the week ending June 12, a total of 69.2% were seen and either admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours.

The Scottish Government has set the target of having 95% of all patients dealt with within four hours.

However, the latest weekly figures showed there were 8,335 patients who were there for longer than that.

This included 2,235 who were there for eight hours or more, with 761 spending 12 hours or more in A&E.

The figures, published by Public Health Scotland, showed just two health boards met the 95% target – with NHS Western Isles and NHS Shetland dealing with 99.1% and 95.8% of patients within four hours respectively.

In NHS Forth Valley, which has just one hospital with A&E facilities, just under half (49.7%) of patients were either admitted, transferred or discharged within the target time.

Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, meanwhile, dealt with 47.5% of patients within the four-hour limit, while at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary 48.5% of patients were treated within the target time.

Scottish Labour health spokesperson Jackie Baillie said: “These dire figures represent thousands of people left in pain for hours on end and hundreds of lives put at risk.”

Labour’s Jackie Baillie claimed there is a ‘deadly crisis’ in A&E departments (Fraser Bremner/Scottish Daily Mail/PA)

Ms Baillie added: “It’s been almost a year since performance started plummeting, but there are still no signs of recovery, despite the tireless efforts of incredible NHS staff.

“The SNP’s gross negligence is putting patients in danger and leaving staff exhausted – it is not good enough.

“Humza Yousaf must act now to put an end to this deadly crisis once and for all.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton was also critical of the Scottish Government, saying: “Waiting times in our A&E departments are not getting better.”

He added: “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.

“The Health Secretary must finally listen to opposition calls for a Burnout Prevention Strategy which would give staff extra protection and make plans to create a Health and Social Care Staff Assembly, which would put staff voices at the heart of resolving this crisis.”

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.

“We continue to see high levels of Covid transmission and people in our hospitals with the virus. As these numbers begin to ease, we expect to see improvements in performance.

“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.

“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, before going to A&E.

“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.”