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Tories warn of ‘winter storm’ in Scotland’s emergency departments

The Scottish Conservatives have warned of a ‘winter storm’ in Scotland’s A&E departments (Chris Radburn/PA)
The Scottish Conservatives have warned of a ‘winter storm’ in Scotland’s A&E departments (Chris Radburn/PA)

A “winter storm” could arise if standards in Scotland’s NHS do not improve in the next few months, the Scottish Conservatives have said.

The stark warning comes after figures last week reported the worst A&E performance on record across the country, with less than 65% of patients attending emergency departments being seen within four hours.

The Scottish Government’s target sits at 95% of patients being seen in this timeframe.

Analysis carried out by the Tories suggests that A&E performances against the four-hour target time are usually worse during winter months than they are in the summer.

On average, the party says, performance in emergency departments has been down by more than five percentage points compared to the summer.

This gap widened to nine points in 2017 and 2020, it said.

Dr Sandesh Gulhane, health spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives, has now suggested the Scottish Government’s NHS Recovery Plan needs to be “urgently rewritten” before the winter months roll in.

He said: “Right across Scotland, patients are already experiencing a summer of chaos with the longest waits ever for treatment in our NHS.

“Waiting times at A&E hit another record high on Humza Yousaf’s watch last week, yet the worst may still be to come for suffering patients and heroic frontline staff.

“Every year we have seen performance in our hospitals being better in the summer and worse in winter.

“Waiting times are already at a record high and the number of patients waiting for treatments is ever increasing.

“Suffering patients and staff who are beyond breaking point will likely face a winter storm later in the year.”

Dr Gulhane said the NHS Recovery Plan “isn’t cutting it”, and that a new document should “support staff at every turn to improve standards, before the winter period hits”.

But a Scottish Government spokesman said A&Es north of the border were the “best performing” in the UK and had been “outperforming those in England, Wales and Northern Ireland for over six years”.

“NHS planning for winter is under way across the service. Building upon lessons identified from 2021-22, we are developing a cross-cutting programme of winter readiness to strengthen service resilience and enhance national contingency planning to support our NHS boards,” the spokesman said.

“We are also working with boards to ensure a range of measures outlined in our new £50 million Urgent and Unscheduled Care Collaborative programme, to reduce A&E waiting times and improve patient experience, are implemented by winter.”

The spokesman added that last week nearly two-thirds of patients were seen in A&Es within the four-hour target.