NHS Scotland: A&E waiting times and Covid-19 surged during cold snap

Emergency room waiting times and the number of patients hospitalised with Covid-19 rose markedly while Scotland was in the grip of a cold snap.

The latest data from Public Health Scotland (PHS) shows only 64.7 per cent of patients in accident and emergency (A&E) departments were seen and either admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours in the week ending March 12. During the same week, the number of patients in hospital with Covid-19 rose from 820 to 919 – an increase of 12.9 per cent on the previous week.

PHS’s Community Acute Respiratory Infection (CARI) programme, which monitors the respiratory infections being presented at primary care, found increases in rhinovirus (the common cold), influenza B and Covid-19. Around 2 per cent of Scotland’s population had coronavirus during this time.

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Scotland’s new first minister is now being urged to make tackling long waits in accident and emergency a priority by Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton.

Edinburgh during recent snowy weather (Photo by Peter Summers/Getty Images)Edinburgh during recent snowy weather (Photo by Peter Summers/Getty Images)
Edinburgh during recent snowy weather (Photo by Peter Summers/Getty Images)

“As the SNP leadership race comes to a close, it is clear the ongoing crisis in Scotland’s NHS will have to be at the top of the new first minister’s in tray,” he said.

A&E departments dealt with 24,523 cases in the week ending March 12 ,with performance against the waiting time target down from the 69 per cent recorded the previous week. It also continues to be well below the Scottish Government ambition of having 95 per cent of cases in A&E dealt with within four hours.

The latest data from PHS showed 8,656 patients were in A&E for more than four hours – up from 7,429 the previous week.

There were also 2,585 people who spent eight hours or more in A&E, including 1,030 who were there for a minimum of 12 hours – with these totals up from 2,300 and 916 in the week ending March 5.

The data for the week ending March 12 also showed three hospitals where more than half of patients waited longer than the four-hour target time in A&E. A total of 42.2 per cent of patients dealt within within this time at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh; as well as 44.5 per cent of patients at Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert; and 44.6 per cent at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

Health secretary Humza Yousaf, who is one of the three candidates hoping to succeed Sturgeon as SNP leader and first minister, stressed there would be fluctuations in the weekly data.

“We are doing everything we can to support the health service through the remainder of the most challenging winter in its history,” he said.

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Scottish Conservative health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane branded the figures as a “damning indictment on Humza Yousaf”, insisting the health secretary was “more focused on his leadership ambitions than his day job”.

“These desperate figures give lie to the theory that Scotland’s A&E wards are recovering from the peak winter pressures on the NHS,” he said. “We’re into spring and yet waiting times have got sharply worse from an already unacceptable position, meaning that even more lives will be needlessly lost.”



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