By Jim Bell
New information has revealed that patients are waiting up to three and a half days for treatment at Scotland’s A&E departments.
Freedom of Information responses to the Scottish Conservatives reveal that one A&E patient in Ayrshire and Arran waited 84 hours to be seen in January this year, while another waited 79 hours at the same hospital in April.
The startling figures, which were highlighted by Party Leader Douglas Ross at First Minister’s Questions, also show recorded waits of 66 hours in Ayrshire and Arran in June, and 64 hours and 53 hours, in July and August respectively, at the same Borders hospital.
Douglas Ross said that the statistics painted a ‘stark picture’ of the A&E crisis across Scotland.
The Scottish Conservative Leader also raised the cases of two patients at different emergency departments.
One – a constituent whose grandmother was left waiting in a mobility chair despite her serious underlying health conditions – described scenes of ‘utter chaos’ which would remain ‘etched in [their] memory forever’.
The second, a patient at Monklands hospital, spent a total of 24 hours in A&E over four days while suffering extreme abdominal pain – and witnessed other patients being sent to wait outside in their cars.
It comes after Scotland recorded the worst A&E waiting times on record this week, with the deputy chair of BMA Scotland, Dr Lailah Peel, saying Scotland’s A&E departments were ‘no longer safe’.
Scottish Conservative Leader Douglas Ross, left, said: “Across Scotland, nearly 10,000 people in the latest week waited more than the target four hours at accident and emergency departments. That is over a third of all patients – the worst on record.
“And it’s only September. We know the pressures on our NHS only get worse over the winter, and doctors are damning about what’s happening on the frontline and the government’s response.
“Earlier this year, at a hospital in Ayrshire and Arran someone had to wait 84 hours for treatment. Another patient waited 79 hours.
“The statistics paint a stark picture of what’s happening across Scotland.
“One constituent wrote to us about their grandmother, who attended A&E several times over a few days.
“They said, ‘What I was faced with was utter chaos, I felt so sorry for the doctors and nurses and helpers. They are literally at breaking point. I wish I had taken a picture, but the image is etched in my memory forever.’
“Another patient waited 24 hours for emergency treatment over four days – all in unimaginable pain.
“This can’t go on any longer, and it definitely can’t go on all winter. The First Minister must urgently get a grip of this crisis, so that people across Scotland can finally get the A&E treatment they deserve.”
This year, someone has waited more than three and a half days to be seen in A&E. In January 2022, one patient in NHS Ayrshire & Arran waited 84 hours and 10 minutes before they were seen in A&E, with another waiting 79 hours and 35 minutes in the same hospital in April. Yet waiting times of this length are not exclusively reserved to the winter months. In every month of summer this year (June, July and August), the NHS saw long waits in A&E in excess of 53 hours – 66 hours, 23 minutes in June in NHS Ayrshire & Arran, 64 hours, 42 minutes in July in NHS Borders and 53 hours and 38 minutes in August in NHS Borders. (FOI responses available on request).
An A&E doctor said that emergency departments are no longer safe and the SNP Government are turning a blind eye. Speaking to BBC Drivetime, Dr Lailah Peel, deputy chair of BMA Scotland, said: ‘I, as an A&E doctor I often tell people that A&E is a safe space, you can come here, if you’re in pain, if you’re sore, if you don’t know where to go, whether you’re in a mental health crisis or whatever is happening. Our A&E departments are no longer safe and what’s really concerning is our government just aren’t acting on this and turning a blind eye’ (BBC Drivetime, 20 September 2022).
A&E patients are being told to wait in their cars because emergency departments are so busy. Patients at University Hospital Monklands in Airdrie are being told to give their mobile phone number so they can be summoned from the car park when it is their turn to be seen. One patient at the hospital said there were more than 90 patients waiting in A&E one evening last week. They added this poses a risk of people ‘dying in cars from heart attacks, asthma attacks or sepsis. It is scary.’ (Scottish Daily Mail, 21 September 2022, Page 14).
The number of A&E patients admitted, treated or discharged within the target time of 4 hours was the worst on record this week. A&E waiting-time stats published by Public Health Scotland on Tuesday 20 September show that in the week ending September 11, just 63.5% of patients were seen within four hours – the lowest percentage ever recorded. The figures for the number of patients waiting more than four hours (9,895) and more than eight hours (3,367) to be seen were also the worst on record (Public Health Scotland, 20 September 2022, link).
Meanwhile, Responding to the latest figures from the National Records of Scotland, which show a fall in life expectancy for the second year in a row, with the gap between the most and least deprived parts of Scotland widening, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader and health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP, right, said:
“These statistics show the true state our country is in. This fall in life expectancy is the result of two public health crises the SNP have catastrophically mishandled.
“The devastation of COVID-19 was all the more potent after the government made glaring errors, such as the putting Covid positive patients into care homes, and failing to make sure that quarantine and contact tracing worked. Similarly, ministers cut budgets to drug services by 22%, sending organisations to the wall, severing support and leading to soaring deaths across Scotland.
“Scotland has suffered as a result of years of distracted governments with broken priorities. Deprivation still cuts too many lives short. As we look ahead to a long and difficult winter with a crisis in emergency care already biting, ministers must get a grip on the things that really matter.”
And, responding to Mr Yousaf’s comments on BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland, that Scotland’s NHS is facing “an exceptionally difficult winter,” Scottish Liberal Democrat leader and health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP said:
“These comments from the Health Secretary come too little, too late. Mr Yousaf has the brass-neck to talk about these horrendous figures as if they were nothing to do with him. Make no mistake- they fall squarely at his own front door.
“Mr Yousaf, left, needs to rip up his failed health plans and start from scratch. He must finally listen to Scottish Liberal Democrat calls for a Burnout Prevention strategy, which was voted down by the SNP/Green Coalition. My party and I would make the recruitment and retention of NHS staff a key priority; that’s how we put our healthcare system back on track.”