Number of patients in A&E for more than four hours hits record high

Data from Public Health Scotland reveals that more patients than ever were left waiting beyond the Government's target time.

Number of patients in A&E for more than four hours hits record high iStock
A&E: Nearly 9,000 waiting more than four hours in seven day period.

The number of patients at Scotland’s A&E departments waiting longer than four hours has grown to the highest on record, new figures show.

Data from Public Health Scotland reveals that more patients than ever were left waiting more than four hours to be seen in a single week during the seven days between June 19 and 26.

The figures released on Tuesday show that just under 9,000 people faced the long wait in that week alone.

The total of 8,993 is over 300 people more than the previous record which was set earlier this year in the week up to March 20.

Four hours is the Scottish Government’s target time for patients to be assessed and discharged or admitted.

Of the 27,646 people who visited A&E in the seven days between June 19-26 just over 67% were seen and resulted in a subsequent admission, transfer or discharge within the four hour target.

This was a decrease from 68% the previous week and 28% short of the Government’s 95% target.

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During the same week, 2,562 people waited more than eight hours while 761 people waited more than 12 hours.

Similar figures for the month of May showed around 73% of people waiting longer than the target time.

Some 9,953 people (7.4%) waited longer than eight hours while 3,284 patients (2.5%) were in emergency departments longer than 12 hours.

Scottish Conservative shadow health minister Craig Hoy said: “It’s a measure of the scale of the crisis in Scotland’s A&E wards that at the height of summer, when the pressure ought to be easing, the already-dire waiting-times stats are actually getting worse.

“It’s simply unacceptable that a third of patients are having to wait more than four hours to be seen – and that almost a thousand people in the space of a week waited at least half a day – because we know that excess delays lead to needless deaths.

“The buck stops with Humza Yousaf, who is letting down dedicated frontline staff and patients alike. His flimsy Covid Recovery Plan isn’t fit for purpose, while – as the outgoing chair of BMA Scotland pointed out last week – the SNP’s woeful workforce planning meant our emergency wards were understaffed before, during and after the pandemic.”

Scottish Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said the Scottish Government has shifted its focus to “an unwanted independence referendum”, adding that “patients and staff alike are being taken for granted”.

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But the Scottish Government said the recent rise in Covid cases is having an impact and insists that Scotland “continues to have the best performing A&Es in the UK”.

A spokesman said: “The number of Covid inpatients in hospital is rising and having a detrimental impact on delays in A&E.

“Despite these pressures, nearly two-thirds of patients are being seen in our A&E departments within the four-hour target.

“We continue to see high levels of Covid transmission and people in hospitals with the virus which is resulting in reduced capacity in our hospitals and staff absence.

“We encourage people to think carefully before going to an emergency department and 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. NHS 24 is available for those who think they need A&E but it is not an emergency.

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