A&E waiting times ‘hit record low for fourth consecutive week’

More than a quarter of patients have waited more than four hours to be seen, records show.

A&E waiting times ‘hit record low for fourth consecutive week’ iStock

Scotland’s A&E waiting time performance has hit a record low for a fourth consecutive week, with more than a quarter of patients waiting more than four hours to be seen.

Just 74.2% of the 27,577 people who attended Accident and Emergency during the final week of August were admitted, transferred or discharged within the four-hour target time.

The Scottish Government target is for 95% of all A&E patients to wait no longer than four hours to be seen, although it has not been met since July 2020.

But in the week ending August 29, there were 7105 people left waiting for longer than the target time — the highest number since records began in 2015.

Of those, 1498 patients spent more than eight hours in A&E and 418 patients waited more than 12 hours.

It is the fourth week running that the record waits have got worse, declining from 76.5% of patients seen in the target time during the first week of August to 76% and then to 75.1%.

Across Scotland, NHS Forth Valley was once again the worst-performing health board, with 57% of the 1167 patients seen within four hours – down from 59.6% the previous week.

It was followed by NHS Lanarkshire, which saw 68.2% of the 4281 patients in the target time (up from 65.5% in the week ending August 22) and then NHS Borders with 69.8% (down from 67.7%).

The island health boards: NHS Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles, were the only ones to exceed the 95% target with 100%, 97.8% and 95.7% performances respectively.

The latest monthly figures for July, published by Public Health Scotland, also show record levels of patients waiting beyond four hours.

A total of 81.5% of the attendance at A&E across Scotland were seen within the target time, with 3579 (2.8%) experiencing a wait in excess of eight hours and 781 waiting beyond 12 hours.

Responding to the figures, Health Secretary Huma Yousaf insisted the Government was “monitoring the situation closely” and said: “Weekly performance is impacted due to 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.

“This is combined with increased levels of people attending A&E who are much sicker and require higher levels of care.

He added: “To minimise pressures, in June we committed £12m 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 £80m to boards in this financial year to support their elective activity and specifically target the backlog of care including appointments, diagnostic testing and surgery, as part of the broader mobilisation of our NHS.

“Boosting staffing levels will help put measures in place to reduce waiting times for urgent or emergency treatment and increase available beds.”

Responding to an urgent question from Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton, Yousaf said the funding announced months ago will be going towards bed capacity and hospital transport and added: “We expect to see the impact of that in the coming weeks”.

Scottish Conservative public health spokesman, Dr Sandesh Gulhane, said: “Behind the numbers is a person and a family desperate for help who, despite the best efforts of our heroic front-line staff, have been failed by delays and inaction from Humza Yousaf.

“In the face of a crisis, all we’ve had from the SNP in response is a flimsy pamphlet with no new funding for A&E services.

“The SNP Government needs to get a grip on the chaos they’ve created and urgently give patients answers about how they plan to bring waiting times under control.”

Scottish Labour health spokesperson Jackie Baillie said: “Today’s statistics paint a clear picture of a health service in crisis, with the health of thousands of Scots on the line.

“This was avoidable. For months now the SNP has completely failed to remobilise the NHS, increase capacity and support staff. And their slapdash recovery plan has been met with serious scepticism from the BMA and the Royal College of Nurses.

“A&E services are struggling to cope and delayed discharge is getting worse.

“If this crisis in our NHS is allowed to persist, then we risk further avoidable deaths.

“This cannot continue. It’s high time that the SNP woke up to the unfolding crisis in our NHS and listened to those who know best – the doctors, nurses and workers on the frontline.”

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