Health Secretary Humsa Yousaf has been urged to “get a grip” of the “crisis” in Scotland’s accident and emergency departments, as the latest figures showed more than a quarter of patients waited longer than the four-hour target time.
New figures from Public Health Scotland showed that only 74.6% of the 27,258 cases dealt with by staff at A&E in the week ending September 5 were admitted, transferred or treated within this time.
While that is up slightly from the record low achieved in the previous week – when 74.2% of patients were seen within the target time – it is significantly below the Scottish Government target of having 95% of A&E patients dealt with within four hours.
In the week ending September 5 there were 1,235 patients who spend more than eight hours in A&E – with 293 people there for 12 hours or more.
It comes after the last four weeks have seen waiting times in emergency departments hit new lows, as the coronavirus pandemic – and the recent surge in cases – puts continuing pressure on the NHS.
And Scottish Conservative public health spokesman, Dr Sandesh Gulhane, said: “Scotland’s NHS remains in the grip of a crisis.
“Despite a very slight improvement, thousands of patients are still waiting far too long to be treated at A&E.”
He complained: “The SNP are still failing to get on top of this situation. They have failed to hit their own A&E waiting time target for well over a year now.
“Humza Yousaf needs to get a grip of this crisis immediately. He must urgently outline a proper remobilisation plan for our NHS to guarantee patients will be seen as quickly as possible after arriving at A&E.”
Labour health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said Mr Yousaf was “too complacent” about the “crisis” in the NHS, which she said meant that “A&E services are in disarray and patients are going without care”.
Ms Baillie said: “The lives of thousands of Scots are on the line. The Health Secretary must get a grip of the continuing A&E crisis. There is no time to delay.”
The Liberal Democrats, meanwhile, calculated that the four-hour waiting time target had been breached for more than 6,000 patients in each of the last five weeks.
And leader, Alex Cole-Hamilton, warned: “The unimaginable pressure our health service is under at the moment is scarring a generation of health professionals.
“Record waiting times are the symptom of a service that’s not well. Staff are struggling, and are fighting against impossible workloads.
“The Health Secretary failed to provide any light at the end of the tunnel with his NHS Recovery plan. It was a bundle of re-packaged announcements, most of which won’t take effect until years down the line.”
Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “If resources are not offered up soon, staff will leave and the NHS will be in even more trouble.”
Mr Yousaf said: “The Covid pandemic has inevitably affected A&E attendance and the pressure is being felt across the UK.
“Scotland’s core A&E departments have outperformed those in the rest of the UK for more than six years. Our NHS staff have faced unprecedented pressures over recent weeks as they work tirelessly and consistently to respond to the pandemic whilst continuing to provide vital treatment and optimal patient care. We are in daily contact with every board and are monitoring the situation closely.”
The Health Secretary said that weekly performance in A&Es was being impacted by a “range of challenges including high attendances, staffing pressures due to isolation and annual leave and the continued requirement for infection control precautions that is affecting the time people need to spend in A&E”.
Mr Yousaf added that this was “combined with increased levels of people attending A&E who are much sicker and require higher levels of care”.
He stated: “To minimise pressures, in June we committed £12 million in additional funding to health boards across Scotland to support non-Covid emergency care.
“The boards are in the process of recruiting additional staff with this funding and we expect to see an impact of our rapid action in the coming weeks.
“We have also provided £80 million to boards to this financial year support their elective activity and specifically target the backlog of care including appointments, diagnostic testing and surgery, as part of the broader mobilisation of out NHS. Boosting staffing levels will help put measures in place to reduce waiting times for urgent or emergency treatment and increase available beds.”
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