Record numbers wait more than 12 hours in A&E

Image copyright Science Photo Library

The number of patients waiting more than 12 hours to be treated at accident and emergency in Scottish hospitals has hit record levels.

Latest figures show 987 people waited in excess of 12 hours to be admitted, transferred or discharged in November last year.

It is a near five-fold increase on the same period in 2018.

But the Scottish government says core A&E departments in Scotland continue to be the best-performing in the UK.

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It wants 95% of cases to be completed within four hours of arrival at A&E. However the last time emergency departments hit that target was in July 2017.

The new statistics show 141,868 people attended Scottish A&Es in November 2018.

Of them, 14.5% waited more than four hours to be admitted, transferred or discharged.

While 987 (0.7%) waited more than 12 hours, 3,320 (2.5%) spent more than eight hours in an A&E department.

The proportion of people treated within the four hour target (85.5%) has only been lower once since 2007.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Scottish government wants 95% of cases to be completed within four hours of arrival

Dr David Chung, vice president of Royal College of Emergency Medicine Scotland, said: “Today’s data shows that despite November being a relatively quiet month in terms of attendances, the number of patients experiencing long waits has increased considerably.

“Long waits mean patients on trolleys and care delivered on corridors. We must do better by our patients.

“Poor performance cannot be solely linked to increasing attendances, there’s clearly an urgent need to build capacity in the system through restoring the number of staffed beds and building a primary and social care system that meets the demand of Scotland’s growing and ageing society.”

NHS Scotland data shows that in October last year a total of 657 patients had to wait more than 12 hours to be seen and then admitted, transferred or discharged. The following month the tally hit 987.

‘Unable to cope’

By comparison during the same months in 2018 the totals were 159 and 210 respectively.

The data shows the winter months are when the number of people waiting more than 12 hours is at its highest in any given year.

Miles Briggs, Scottish Conservative health spokesman, said: “It is utterly unacceptable that almost 1,000 people waited in A&E for over 12 hours last month, most likely in fear and pain.

“Hospital staff are clearly unable to cope and the result on morale is devastating.”

The worst-performing Scottish health board was NHS Lothian, where 81.4% of patients were seen within the four-hour target period, followed by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (81.8%) and NHS Ayrshire and Arran (82.2%).

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A Scottish government spokeswoman said: “Scotland’s core A&E departments continue to be the best-performing in the UK and have been for more than four and a half years despite experiencing continued high attendance levels.

“In 2019, we have seen more patients within four hours than in any other year since 2012. We continue to work closely with those health boards facing the greatest challenges to help drive improvements.

“To support the impact that winter pressures can have on performance, we have invested a further £3.4m, bringing the total additional investment to £13.4m to ensure quality of care, patient safety and access to services are maintained over the winter period.”

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