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A&E waiting times hit worst level since last March

Some 85.8% of patients were seen within four hours, but the Scottish Government's target is 95%.

A&E: Nearly 4000 patients waited longer than four hours. <strong>PA</strong>
A&E: Nearly 4000 patients waited longer than four hours. PA

Waiting times at accident and emergency (A&E) wards in Scottish hospitals are at their worst level since March 2018.

A total of 85.8% of patients were admitted, transferred or discharged in four hours in the week ending January 13.

It falls well short of the Scottish Government target that 95% of A&E patients should be seen within four hours, which has not been met since July 2017.

There were 25,970 attendances to Scots emergency wards in the seven-day period, with 3680 patients (14.2%) having to wait longer than four hours to be seen.

Of those, 587 (2.3%) waited more than eight hours, and 140 patients (0.5%) were made to wait more than 12 hours.

The four-hour waiting times figures are identical to the same week last year, which were blamed by the then health secretary Shona Robison on a flu outbreak and a rise in injuries due to black ice.

The latest weekly figures are the worst since the week ending March 11 last year, during the extreme weather and cold snap dubbed the “beast from the east”.

Health secretary Jeane Freeman conceded the statistics were “not good enough” but said she hoped to improve waiting times through £850m of government funding.

The Liberal Democrats said A&E staff are being “let down because of scarce resources and flawed workforce planning”.

Across health boards, NHS Shetland and NHS Western Isles performed best, with more than 98% of patients seen within the four-hour timeframe.

NHS Tayside and NHS Orkney also met the government’s benchmark, on 96.2% and 95.3% respectively.

A&E waiting times for patients at hospitals covered by NHS Forth Valley saw a marked improvement on the week before, with 80.4% seen in four hours – up from 66% the week ending January 6.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde experienced a 4% decline, with 80.7% of patients attended to within the target timeframe, down from 84.6% the week prior.

Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow was the worst performing hospital across Scotland, with only 72.3% of patients were seen within four hours.

It comes after the deaths of two people, including a child, who contracted a fungal infection linked to pigeon droppings at the Glasgow super hospital.

Health secretary Jeane Freeman said: “Scotland’s core A&Es have now been the best performing in the UK for more than three and a half years, but even though winter places additional demands on the system, I know there are areas where performance is not good enough.

“We are committed to ensuring that health boards are supported in improving performance and have backed this with an additional £10m this winter – on top of the £9m already allocated to support unscheduled care all year round.

“We have also seen a significant increase in the number of A&E consultants working in Scotland’s health service – an increase of 157 whole time equivalent posts since 2007.

“We will continue to drive improvements through our £850m waiting times improvement plan.

“We are working closely with those health boards experiencing the greatest challenges to support recovery, this includes dedicated external support as well as support from the chief medical officer and national clinical director.”

Scottish Lib Dem health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “A&E performance has plummeted this January as doctors and nurses battle to solve patients’ winter woes without the resources or staff they need.

“Scotland’s social care system is under real pressure and as a result blocked beds are stopping other people leaving A&E. 

“The process is far from seamless and that’s because there isn’t enough support at each and every stage.

“Staff work tirelessly but are being let down because of scarce resources and flawed workforce planning.

“The health secretary has been in post since last summer. The A&E target hasn’t been met since a year before that. We need to know how and when this standard will be met.”

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