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Half a million patients faced A&E delays in last two years, Tories say

The Scottish Government’s target for 95% of patients to be seen within four hours was last achieved in July 2020 (Chris Radburn/PA)
The Scottish Government’s target for 95% of patients to be seen within four hours was last achieved in July 2020 (Chris Radburn/PA)

Half a million patients have experienced delays in emergency departments in the last two years, according to the Scottish Conservatives.

The Scottish Government’s goal for 95% of patients attending A&E to be admitted, discharged or treated within four hours was last met in the week ending July 12 2020.

A drop in the number of people presenting at A&E during the earlier months of the Covid-19 pandemic led to a reduction in waiting times.

But the 95% target has been missed since then, with figures released last week revealing just 67.3% of patients were attended to within four hours in the week ending June 26.

The Scottish Conservatives have now highlighted that, according to the party’s calculations, some 489,893 patients have had to wait more than four hours since the target was last achieved.

It said that of those patients, 101,647 waited more than eight hours, and 31,936 faced a wait of more than 12 hours.

The party said the figures are a “devastating illustration” of how both patients and healthcare staff have “suffered” from what it called a “mismanagement of Scotland’s NHS”.

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Craig Hoy said: “These shocking figures lay bare just how badly patients and dedicated NHS staff have been let down by the SNP over the last two years.

“It’s appalling that half a million people – almost one in 10 of the Scottish population – have had to wait over four hours to be seen.

“To wait more than half a day in a so-called emergency ward ought to be unthinkable – and yet that’s been the fate of virtually 32,000 people.

“This is not about mere inconvenience; it’s a matter of life and death, because we know that excess delays lead to needless loss of life.”

Mr Hoy suggested frontline NHS staff have been “made to carry the can for mismanagement” by the Scottish Government, and said that while the pandemic worsened the crisis, it had stemmed from “dreadful workforce planning over a long period” at Holyrood.

He added that the Government’s Covid Recovery Plan “simply isn’t fit for purpose”, and said the milestone of two years “must be the catalyst” for Health Secretary Humza Yousaf to “finally get a grip of this huge crisis”.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Over the last two years our NHS has suffered the biggest shock of its 74-year existence, despite this, Scotland continues to have the best performing A&Es in the UK, outperforming those in England, Wales and Northern Ireland for over six years.

“The number of Covid inpatients in hospital is rising which is resulting in reduced capacity in our hospitals and staff absences, and having a detrimental impact on delays in A&E.

“Despite these pressures, since July 2020 1,887,369 (79%) patients have been seen in our A&E departments within the four-hour target.

“We encourage people to think carefully before going to an emergency department and 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. NHS 24 is available for those who think they need A&E but it is not an emergency.

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