Scotland’s accident and emergency (A&E) departments remain under intense pressure, with a record number of patients facing long waits last week.
Official figures from Public Health Scotland released on Tuesday show 2627 patients spent more than eight hours in A&E in the week ending March 27, and 1022 of them spent more than 12 hours.
Almost a third of patients had to wait longer than the target time of four hours.
The Scottish Government aims to ensure 95% of people who attend A&E are seen and subsequently discharged or admitted to hospital within four hours – but this has not been met since 2017.
Dr Sandesh Gulhane , the Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary, said: “Each time we think the crisis in A&E has hit rock bottom, things seem to get even worse.
“It’s truly horrendous that a record number of patients had to wait 12 hours to be seen. Worse still, it was even reported this week that some patients have actually waited three days.
“We can’t go on like this, with (health secretary) Humza Yousaf wringing his hands while lives are needlessly lost because Scotland’s emergency wards don’t have enough staff to satisfy demand.”
Statistics for the whole of February showed performance was down when it came to seeing patients within 12 hours.
Out of a total of 110,196 attendances across Scotland, 2404 (2.2%) people waited for longer than this time period – an increase of 138 patients.
Some 74.2% of patients in A&E were seen within the four-hour standard – a fall from 76% in January’s data and 75.7% in December.
However, the number of attendees waiting for more than eight hours decreased slightly in the month of February, with 6602 (6.2%) patients spending that time in emergency departments compared to last month’s figure of 6682.
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader and health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton reiterated calls for an urgent inquiry into avoidable deaths caused by the performance in A&E waiting times.
The Royal College of Emergency Medicine has warned there have been 240 deaths since the start of the year as a result of delays at A&E departments.
“We need an inquiry into avoidable deaths connected to the emergency care crisis and new resources to help those on the front line.”Alex Cole-Hamilton, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader
Cole-Hamilton said: “A&E targets were already missed for years pre-pandemic because of poor workforce planning and SNP mismanagement.
“As the crisis reaches its most dangerous point, the SNP-Green government’s eyes have wandered away from the crisis and towards the prospect of an unwanted independence referendum.
“NHS patients and staff are in dire need of new hope. We need an inquiry into avoidable deaths connected to the emergency care crisis and new resources to help those on the front line.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The latest monthly figures published show Scotland has 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.
“The latest weekly figures show performance in our A&E departments has slightly improved, although we know this may fluctuate in the weeks ahead as the unprecedented impact of the pandemic continues to take its toll.
“We are still seeing high levels of Covid transmission and people in our hospitals with the virus, but there are some indications that numbers are stabilising.
“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.”
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