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Patients required to wait in cars at busy A&E departments, health board says

A&E waiting times in Scotland have hit the worst level on record (Peter Byrne/PA)
A&E waiting times in Scotland have hit the worst level on record (Peter Byrne/PA)

Patients waiting to be seen at A&E are being asked to wait in their cars due to distancing measures in hospitals, a health board has said.

The Scottish Daily Mail reported the issue on Wednesday, which NHS Lanarkshire said was as a result of “extremely busy periods” at its three emergency departments.

Some Covid-19 mitigation measures, including the wearing of masks and one-metre social distancing, are still in place in hospitals, meaning waiting rooms can become crowded, the health board said.

The news comes as recent figures show A&E waiting times at an all-time high.

Statistics released on Tuesday showed that just 63.5% of attendances at A&E in the week up to September 11 were seen within the Scottish Government’s four-hour standard.

Of the 27,097 attendances during that week, a record number of people waited more than four hours, at 9,895.

Meanwhile, the number of people waiting more than eight hours was 3,367 – a new high – while 1,257 people waited longer than 12 hours, prompting Health Secretary Humza Yousaf to say the waits were “not acceptable”.

Dr John Keaney, an acute medical doctor and consultant in emergency medicine at NHS Lanarkshire said: “All three of our emergency departments continue to experience extremely busy periods and there is constant pressure on the availability of both beds in the hospital and cubicles in the emergency departments.

“With so many people attending, at times we struggle with space in our emergency department waiting rooms. The wearing of face coverings and physical distance measures remain a requirement in hospitals. This is why we may ask people to wait in their cars but only if it is safe to do so.

“We prioritise and treat people based on the seriousness of their condition. All transfers are clinically assessed to ensure they are safe if transferring by non-ambulance transport.”