Covid Scotland: 10 people wait over three days at A&E in a single week

Ten people waited for more than three days at Accident and Emergency (A&E) departments in a single week in January, Scotland on Sunday can reveal, in what the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) has called the “most shameful indicator of the dire state of urgent and emergency care in Scotland”.

In the week to January 16, ten people waited over 72 hours at an A&E department to be admitted, transferred or discharged, according to figures obtained from Public Health Scotland.

The figure is almost as high as the total number of people who waited 72 hours across the whole of 2021 (14), and far higher than the number who waited that long in 2020 (five) or 2019 (six). The Scottish Government target waiting time is four hours.

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Dr John Thomson, vice president of RCEM in Scotland, labelled the figures “absolutely appalling”, while the Scottish Conservatives said it was “hard to believe they are actually true”.

Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty ImagesPhoto by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Dr Thomson said: “No patient should wait beyond 12 hours, and to hear that 10 patients waited over 72 hours is absolutely appalling.

"It is the most shameful indicator of the dire state of urgent and emergency care in Scotland."

He added: “Waiting times beyond six hours are associated with an increased risk of harm or even death, we have stated this in clear terms to the Scottish Government.

"Yet the latest weekly performance figures saw the highest number of patients on record waiting for extremely long periods of time before receiving the treatment they need, while ED staff face stress, distress and moral injury and do their utmost to keep patients safe.

"Widespread staff shortages across all grades, and a shortfall of 1000 beds – these are the matters that must be addressed with urgency if we are to begin resolving this crisis.

"The crisis should never have reached the point where patients are waiting over 72 hours before receiving care.

"But it has reached that point, so now as a matter of safety it must be met with meaningful action now to reduce these long and dangerous waiting times."

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Just three people waited for longer than 72 hours in 2017, while one person waited that long in 2016, and nobody did in 2015.

Scottish Conservative health spokesperson Dr Sandesh Gulhane said it is “utterly disgraceful” that a patient should wait more than 72 hours.

“That is more than 18 times longer than the SNP’s own target waiting time and should be a source of shame for the health secretary,” he said.

“I have huge sympathy for patients suffering these astonishing waits, which it’s hard to believe are actually true, and there is every chance this will have led to needless excess deaths.”

Scottish Labour health spokesperson Jackie Baillie said every person left waiting for days at A&E deserves a personal apology from Humza Yousaf.

"This astonishing revelation should shame the Health Secretary and the SNP,” she said.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The pandemic has inevitably had an extreme impact on services like A&E and long waiting times are not acceptable. Patients who were in the Emergency Department for long period would be admitted to beds in the ward to receive treatment and care due to the entire hospital site operating at or close to capacity.

“Staff absences and a growing number of acutely unwell patients, resulting in longer stays, is also having an impact on Health Board services.

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“Antimicrobial Resistance & Healthcare Associated Infection (ARHAI) Scotland has today published updated Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) guidance which will help Health Boards ease these pressures on hospital services.

“Scotland continues to have the best performing A&Es in the UK. In fact, Scotland’s A&Es have outperformed those in England, Wales and Northern Ireland for over six years.”

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