A&E waiting times branded 'unacceptable' as July 'worst on record'

Fewer than 70% of those at emergency departments across Scotland were seen within four hours.

Scottish A&E waiting times in July worst on record as thousands wait over eight hours for care iStock

Waiting times at Scotland’s emergency departments in July were at the worst monthly level on record, new figures show.

The Scottish Government’s waiting times target aims to ensure 95% of attendees at A&E are seen and subsequently admitted or discharged within four hours.

But statistics from Public Health Scotland, released on Tuesday, showed that just 69.9% of the 128,830 attendances at emergency departments were seen within the timeframe.

That is compared to 71.3% the previous month.

Some 4.483 people in July waited longer than 12 hours at A&E, while 11,884 waited longer than eight hours.

Meanwhile, the most recent weekly figures show just 66.1% of people were seen within four hours in the week up to August 28, rising from 65% the previous week.

Of the 26,555 people who went to A&E during that time, 1,052 waited longer than 12 hours and 2,766 waited longer than eight hours.

Despite the record performance, health secretary Humza Yousaf said Scotland’s emergency departments continued to perform better than those elsewhere in the UK, reiterating calls for people to consider if they need to be in A&E.

“The pandemic has presented the NHS with the greatest challenge of its 74-year existence. Despite this, Scotland continues to have the best performing A&Es in the UK, outperforming those England, Wales and Northern Ireland for seven years,” he said.

“Occupancy and staffing pressures remain high across emergency departments and continue to have an impact on the delivery of services.

“Despite this, almost two-thirds of patients are being seen within four hours of arrival.

“As we enter the winter period, 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 and pharmacies can be contacted during the day for non-critical care, NHS 24 is also available day or night on 111 for non-emergency inquiries.

“We are investing £50m to drive down waiting times through our Urgent and Unscheduled Care Collaborative programme, including further development of Flow Navigation Centres in every board which aim to ensure rapid access to a clinician and scheduled appointments, where possible.”

Scottish Tory health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane said the figures will be “frightening for patients and demoralising for dedicated frontline staff”.

“In fact, July’s figures show that things are getting even worse on our emergency wards,” he added.

“It’s completely unacceptable that, at the height of summer, more than three in ten patients had to wait longer than four hours to be seen, because we know excess delays lead inevitably to avoidable deaths.

“Appalling workforce planning by the SNP lies at the root of the problem, but Humza Yousaf also has to accept that his flimsy Covid Recovery Plan isn’t fit for purpose, and come up with an alternative strategy instead.”

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