Scotland’s accident and emergency departments ‘in complete crisis’, say opposition leaders

Scotland’s accident and emergency departments are “in complete crisis” opposition leaders claimed, as new figures showed a record high of more than 600 people spent more than 12 hours waiting for treatment in one week alone.

While the Scottish Government’s target states 95% of patients should be seen and either admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours, in the week ending Sunday October 10 just 71.3% were dealt with in that time.

That exactly matches the record low achieved the previous week.

Meanwhile, the most recent weekly figures from Public Health Scotland show of the 25,335 people who attended at A&E 1,871 of them spent eight hours or more there.

That includes 612 people who spent 12 hours or longer waiting for treatment – the highest number since weekly records began.

The three island health boards: NHS Shetland, NHS Orkney and NHS Western Isles, all managed to treat more than 95% of A&E patients within the four-hour, target time.

But no mainland health boards managed to achieve this and, in NHS Forth Valley, just four out of 10 (41%) of patients were dealt with in this time.

It comes as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic continues to put the NHS under pressure, with a number of health boards having called for the army to help them deal with staff shortages.

Health Secretary, Humza Yousaf, recently announced an additional £300 million for the NHS but warned, despite this, the service still faces an “incredibly difficult winter”.

Opposition politicians fear without further action from the Scottish Government the NHS will experience its “worst winter ever”.

Conservative health spokesman, Dr Sandesh Gulhane (pictured), said: “Our A&E departments are in complete crisis and have been for far too long on Humza Yousaf’s watch.

“More and more health boards are having to call on support from our UK Armed Forces due to his continued inaction.”

Dr Gulhane added that almost 50,000 patients had waited more than the four-hour, target time in A&E since the Government’s “flimsy” NHS recovery plan was published.

The Tory MSP continued: “The number of patients waiting over half a day to be seen in A&E has hit an all-time high.

“Humza Yousaf’s lack of leadership is having a devastating impact on frontline staff and patients urgently seeking treatment.

“If he doesn’t get a grip now, he will potentially preside over the worst winter ever in our NHS.”

The Labour health spokeswoman, Jackie Baillie, was also critical, saying: “Week after week we are presented with the cold, hard fact that A&E services are being overwhelmed.

“We have been calling on the Government to act for months, but instead they have dragged their heels and failed to support staff.

“With the army being called in to support several health boards, the Health Secretary cannot continue to pretend everything is rosy.

“Thousands of Scots are waiting several hours in pain for treatment. And health boards, like Forth Valley, are recording the worst statistics on record.

“Things have to change now, or else we face a winter of chaos.”

Meanwhile, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, Alex Cole-Hamilton, said dealing with the “workforce crisis” in the NHS should be a “personal priority” for the Health Secretary.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “Patients are in pain and are waiting too long. Staff are overstretched and under resourced. Those facts are now hallmarks of life in Scotland’s 14 years with the SNP in Government.

“This crisis has escalated to levels that would have been unimaginable just months ago. These waiting times are not sustainable, and staff cannot and should not be expected to work through another six months of this.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The Covid pandemic has inevitably affected A&E attendance and the pressure is being felt across the UK.”

She said that A&E departments in Scotland had performed better than those in the rest of the UK for more than six years, adding: “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.

“As part of the NHS Recovery Plan, we have committed £27 million towards the Redesign of Urgent Care to ensure people receive the right care, at the right place.

“To minimise pressures as much as possible this winter, we’ve recently announced £300 million of measures to help increase NHS and social care capacity in our hospitals and reduce delayed discharges.

“In the meantime, we will continue to work closely with those sites facing the greatest challenges to ensure rapid recovery plans are in place and are in contact daily.”

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