Humza Yousaf welcomes’ immediate improvement’ in A&E waiting times figures

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf has welcomed the “immediate improvement” in accident and emergency waiting times – despite the latest figures showing the four-hour target was missed for almost 9,000 patients.

He had branded last week’s figures – which were the worst on record – as “not acceptable”, as he insisted he was “determined to improve performance”.

New data, covering the week ending September 18, showed that 66.2% of patients in accident and emergency were seen and then either admitted, transferred or discharged within the four-hour target time.

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That is up from the 63.5% record low recorded the previous week.

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf has welcomed the “immediate improvement” in accident and emergency waiting times – despite the latest figures showing the four-hour target was missed for almost 9,000 patients.

Of the 26,403 patients who attended at A&E in the week ending September 18, a total of 8,931 were there for four hours or more, down from 9,924 recorded the previous week.

There were 2,697 patients who waited more than eight hours, with this down from 3,381.

Meanwhile, 998 patients waited 12 hours or more in A&E in the week ending September 18 – dropping from the total of 1,266 the previous week.

Mr Yousaf said there had been a 20% reduction in the number of people waiting longer than eight hours, and a 21% reduction in those waiting 12 hours or more – adding he was “grateful” to NHS staff for their “hard work”.

However, opposition parties demanded action from the Scottish Government, with the Tories saying without changes the increased pressure winter will place on A&E “doesn’t bear thinking about”.

Conservative health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane said that the “latest awful figures are further evidence of the scale of the crisis in Scotland’s A&E wards that Humza Yousaf is presiding over”.

Dr Gulhane said: “It’s unacceptable that more than one third of people are having to wait over four hours to be seen because we know that excess delays lead to needless deaths.

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Patients and dedicated frontline staff are being let down by years of dire NHS workforce planning from successive SNP health secretaries.”

Dr Gulhane added: “We can’t go on like this. Humza Yousaf must finally get a grip or winter – when the pressures on A&E grow further – doesn’t bear thinking about.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said an inquiry was now needed into “avoidable deaths linked to the crisis in emergency care”.

He said: “Emergency care cannot carry on like this. We cannot allow this scale of waits in our A&E departments to simply become the new normal, as our health secretary seems content to allow.

“Ministers have sat on their hands long enough while the NHS suffers. The Scottish Government’s Recovery Plan has failed.

“The Health Secretary must come to Parliament with a new plan in time for this winter before the crisis deepens further.

“Humza Yousaf must also commit to an urgent inquiry into the avoidable deaths linked to the crisis in emergency care.”

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Mr Yousaf, meanwhile, said that A&E departments were “working under significant pressure”, adding that “in common with healthcare systems in the UK and globally, the pandemic continues to affect services”.

The Health Secretary said: “We have seen an immediate improvement in performance on last week’s figures, including a 20% reduction in the number of people waiting longer than eight hours, and a 21% reduction in those waiting longer than 12 hours.

“I am grateful to NHS staff for their hard work and commitment during this period of continued challenge.”

He has met with NHS chiefs in some of the health boards where performance is “most difficult”, with Mr Yousaf adding that a letter has also been sent to boards “setting out immediate actions to ensure imminent performance recovery”.

He continued: “We are working closely with boards to reduce pressure on hospitals, including our £50 million Urgent and Unscheduled Care Collaborative which looks to drive down A&E waits by offering alternatives to hospital, such as Hospital at Home; directing people to more appropriate urgent care settings and scheduling urgent appointments to avoid long waits.

“The roll-out of our Out-patient Antimicrobial Therapy service also allows patients to be treated at home or in the community and has already saved 45,000 bed days.”