A&E attendances reach highest level since before pandemic

The autumn and winter lockdown led to another sharp decrease before numbers began to rise again.

A&E attendances reach highest level since before pandemic iStock

More patients attended accident and emergency departments in May than at any point since January 2020, latest figures show.

There were 129,444 attendances to A&E in Scotland – a 46% increase on the 88,614 who attended in May 2020.

The first lockdown at the start of the coronavirus pandemic saw attendances plummet to a record low of 65,117 last April before month-on-month increases until the previous peak in August.

The autumn and winter lockdown led to another sharp decrease before numbers began to rise again in February of this year.

May’s attendance figures, published by Public Health Scotland, show that 16,640 patients spent more than four hours waiting to be seen at A&E, up by 3590 compared to April.

A further 1782 (1.4%) patients waited more than eight hours while 407 (0.3%) were left waiting for more than 12 hours.

With just 87.1% of patients admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours, it means the Scottish Government’s target of 95% has not been met since July last year.

Scottish Labour health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said: “These statistics plainly show that our A&E services are under increasing strain and that the Scottish Government’s eye is simply not on the ball.

“We cannot have thousands of patients in pain for hours and hours in A&E clinics but unless other services are properly remobilised patients will feel they have nowhere else to turn.

“It’s high time that the SNP Government takes action to support and properly resource frontline medics so that an A&E crisis can be averted.”

Scottish Greens health spokeswoman Gillian Mackay said: “The spike in numbers of people going to A&E is, hopefully, a sign that more people are accessing health services when they have worrying symptoms, and we must continue to encourage those who are concerned to seek help.

“This surge in demand will undoubtedly be placing strain on health services, however, while Covid-19 case numbers are so high.

“That we have once again failed to meet the four-hour waiting time standard clearly shows the pressure that A&E departments are under.

“The Scottish Government must do more to raise awareness of the community services that are available, as some of those attending A&E will be able to get the care they need at their local pharmacy, for example.

“It must also ensure that the NHS is properly supported to meet rising demand. A&E departments and GP surgeries are extremely busy at the moment and there are no signs of this abating as previously undiagnosed conditions emerge and backlogs of care are worked through.

“They cannot be expected to provide pre-pandemic levels of service without increased resources.”