NHS AT BREAKING POINT: Doctors ask health board to declare major incident

By Bill Heaney

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.

One comment

  1. Can’t keep saying it too many times but –

    a) The NHS is underfunded and where has the big Red Brexit bus with its £350m a week extra funding disappeared to, and

    b) Why did we cause an exodus of thousands of consultants, doctor and nurses to leave to go back to the EU after Brexit and

    c) Why has Westminster made it so difficult for the NHS to try and get doctors and nurses to get visa’s to come to the UK.

    Looks like folks are getting exactly what they voted for. Underfunding and the Great British Bulldog hatred of foreigners is giving exactly what anyone with half a brain would have realised.

    And for those who play ya-boo petty political politics they are as bad as the fools who took us out of the EU and underfunded the NHS. Anyway just wait until the NHS privatisation and the two tier system of those who can pay and those who can’t kicks in. They’re discussing it now whilst Sturgeon says it would be undemocratic to stop the NHS debating privatisation proposals.

    But hey, we voted for this Tory Government, we voted for Brexit, so sadly we suck it up. And the worst thing is folks could die. So turn up your heating folks, stay warm, stay healthy, you know it makes sense.

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