NHS Scotland: Number of people left waiting at A&E at highest on record

The Scottish Government's waiting time target has not been met since 2017.

NHS Scotland: Number of people left waiting at A&E emergency departments at highest on record iStock
Forth Valley, Lanarkshire and Greater Glasgow and Clyde were the health boards with the lowest rate of people being seen within four hours.

More than 8000 people failed to be seen at A&E within the Scottish Government’s target time – the highest number ever recorded.

The number of people waiting more than four, eight and 12 hours at emergency departments broke the record on the week ending March 13, official figures show.

The Government set a target of 95% of people being seen and subsequently discharged or admitted to hospital within four hours – but this has not been met since 2017.

NHS boards across the country have warned of immense pressure with the number of people in hospital with coronavirus reaching its highest level since the start of the pandemic on Monday.

There were 2128 patients in hospital with Covid-19, surpassing the previous highest total of 2053 in January 22, 2021.

Statistics published on Tuesday show the number of people waiting half a day was the highest recorded since at least February 2015 during the week up to March 13.

Forth Valley, Lanarkshire and Greater Glasgow and Clyde were the health boards with the lowest rate of people being seen within four hours.

Last week, Scotland’s health secretary said NHS staff across the country were experiencing their toughest week since the pandemic began.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said Covid-19 was having an impact on A&E.

“Unfortunately, the number of people in hospital with Covid-19 has now reached the highest level since the start of the pandemic and this rise in recent weeks has inevitably had an impact on services like A&E,” the spokeswoman said.

“Hospitals continue to face capacity issues as a result of staff absence and reduced beds due to infection controls, with more acutely unwell patients meaning longer stays.

“We owe a huge debt of gratitude to our healthcare staff who are continuing to provide vital treatment and optimal patient care.

“For many A&E will not be the right place for their healthcare need. People should consider whether their condition is an emergency, such as a stroke, heart attack or major trauma, before going to A&E.

“Local GPs can be contacted during the day for non-critical care, as well as local pharmacies. If you think you need A&E but it is not an emergency, NHS 24 telephone service is available on 111.

“Scotland continues to have the best performing A&Es in the UK. In fact, Scotland’s A&Es have outperformed those in England, Wales and Northern Ireland for over six years.”

Scottish Tory health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane said the figures were “deplorable” because “tragically we know excess waits for emergency treatment lead to a needless loss of life, as sure as night follows day”.

“The crisis on Scotland’s A&E wards is not only never-ending, it’s deepening – and still the Health Secretary is conspicuous by his silence,” he said.

“Health boards are pleading with patients not to visit A&E unless it’s essential because they are beyond breaking point.

“Overworked, under-resourced frontline staff are crying out for a coherent strategy from Humza Yousaf to tackle this, yet they are stuck with the same inadequate Covid Recovery Plan he issued months ago.”