A&E wait times in December worst since pandemic began amid warnings of staff distress
Visits to A&E in December fell to 93,829, some 10,000 fewer patients than in November, and 35,000 fewer than in December 2019.
But the percentage of people seen within four hours was at its worst since January 2020, at 85 per cent.
Some 2,289 people faced a wait of more than eight hours, a 54 per cent increase on the previous month, while 634 people waited more than 12 hours to be seen, double the figure in November.
The Royal College of Emergency Medicine warned the data is evidence of increased strain among staff.
“Staff have been working relentlessly for 11 months now. Studies have shown many have faced psychological distress, stress and even PTSD as a result of the pandemic,” said Vice President Dr John Thomson.
“Covid data indicates that we may have passed the peak of admissions, at least this is what we hope. But the strains on the system remain and passing the peak does not mark the end.”
He added: “I am concerned about staff wellbeing and mental health. The impact of the pandemic on the mental health of frontline staff must be recognised.
“In the short term, psychological support must be provided for any health care professional who needs it. We had the clap for carers, now let’s provide actual support that tends to the mental health of frontline workers.
“Most frontline workers have seen patients die, some have known colleagues who have died, others may have been very sick themselves, but all have faced a challenge like no other and given all their energy and efforts to the care of others.”
“We recognise the additional pressure our NHS staff are facing as they work tirelessly to respond to the pandemic whilst continuing to provide vital treatment and safe patient care, said Health Secretary Jeane Freeman.
"We are in daily contact with those sites facing the greatest challenges and are monitoring the situation closely.”
“In December the Scottish Government launched the Redesign of Urgent Care Programme which aims to ensure people are seen safely during winter, as close to home as possible and to help the public access the right care in the right place at the right time. This national change to urgent care is being supported by £20 million of investment and will keep people and NHS Scotland safe by ensuring A&E provides the fastest and most appropriate care for people when they really need it.”
A message from the Editor:
Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.
If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.
Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.