That was the weekend that was. It was the weekend when A&E doctors urged NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board – it covers West Dunbartonshire and South Argyll – to declare a major incident amid “grave concerns” over patient safety.
Staff working at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital said the A&E department continued to be overwhelmed.
The Health Board, which turned down the request, presumably after consulting First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Health Minister Humza Yousaf, said it was taking action to support local staff, but gave no details as to what this was or of their success in reaching that objective.
Labour’s Scottish health spokesperson Jackie Baillie; Health Secretary Humza Yousaf and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Pictures by Bill Heaney
The SNP government leaks like a sieve, as instanced recently when the Budget was delayed while an embarrassing internal inquiry was held at Holyrood.
It was revealed on Thursday that with an increase in flu and respiratory viruses across Scotland, all health boards had asked the public only to attend A&E if it is urgent or life threatening.
Messages seen by the BBC showed a request from A&E consultants in Glasgow to declare a major incident, but that was declined by NHS GGC, most probably for political reasons.
The Vale of Leven District General Hospital in Alexandria does not have an accident and emergency department, although the hospital still has vacant bed space, a fact pointed out by Dumbarton MSP Jackie Baillie whose request for it to be used to absorb the pressure on other hospitals was resoundingly refused by the SNP, once again for perceived political reasons.
They asked for it to be called so extra resources could be diverted to the department, but it would have exposed the fact that the government had clearly failed to cope and was unfit for purpose.
A major incident is declared when the the health of the community is under serious threat.
Special measures would only be put in place to assist the demand on the health service, such as extra resources to manage the volume of patients.
The messages said every space in the emergency department was occupied by patients waiting for a bed in the hospital, with no resuscitation beds and an eight-hour delay for ambulances offloading patients.
“We are now unable to provide safe critical care,” read one of the messages.
Another read: “This is without any doubt the worst shift I’ve worked, and I’ve never been more convinced of real patient harm due to overcrowding and exit block.”
Staff said a combination of issues meant critically-ill patients received “substandard care both clinically and from [a] humanitarian perspective”.
The health board was later asked to reconsider calling a major incident, which it again declined.
A spokesperson for NHS GGC said: “We have an escalation policy that would allow us to declare any major incidents and we closely monitor the safety of our departments and patients at all times and keep this under close review.
“Our services, like the whole of Scotland, are facing major pressures including significant Covid, flu and norovirus cases and our staff are doing all they can to meet this demand.”
Scotland recorded its worst ever performance times at A&E in the week up to 18 December, with 55% of patients seen within the government target of 4 hours. This was down 7.4% compared to the previous week.
At the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, just 45% of patients were seen within four hours. A total 1,821 patients spent more than 12 hours in emergency departments across Scotland.
Both the Labour and Conservative parties in the Scottish Parliament have been campaigning ceaselessly for months for the resignation of the Health Minister, Humza Yousaf.