NHS Scotland A&E waiting times: Scottish Government referred to statistics watchdog

The Scottish Government has been referred to the UK’s statistics watchdog over alleged inconsistencies in the reporting of accident-and-emergency (A&E) figures.

As reported in The Scotsman earlier this week, thousands of patients are being “deliberately hidden” from A&E figures, a whistleblower has warned, amid claims the Government is trying to “cover-up the true scale of the humanitarian crisis in our NHS”.

A whistleblower from Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) said as many as 2,000 patients a month are being missed off the facility’s A&E waiting time statistics, due to how the Government collects data.

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Patients presenting at the acute assessment unit (AAU) of QEUH are not included in Public Health Scotland’s A&E department waiting time statistics. By contrast, waiting time statistics for Edinburgh’s Western General Hospital AAU are included in A&E figures.

Glasgow's Queen Elizabeth University Hospital
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Now Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary Dr Sandesh Gulhane has referred the Government to the UK Statistics Authority.

He said: “Our emergency departments are in crisis and it feels like A&E waiting times are getting worse every week, yet these deeply worrying reports show that we may only be hearing half the story. It seems clear that A&E reporting is woefully inconsistent across the country, and that the public is not being informed of the true extent of waiting times in Scotland’s hospitals.

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“At best this may be considered unprofessional, at worst, some may regard it as a deliberate attempt to corrupt the data. If we are to fully hold the SNP to account over their dire mismanagement of our health service, we need to know the full picture of Scotland’s emergency care system.

“I have asked the UK Statistics Authority to investigate this issue and I urge the SNP Government to bring in consistent reporting requirements in order to improve the quality of health data. For too long the SNP have hidden behind stats and spin to avoid dealing with the disaster in our NHS. They must come clean with the Scottish public – and, more importantly, take action to deal with this ongoing crisis.”

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A spokesman for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said: “At all times NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde reporting procedures comply with national guidelines and agreements. To suggest otherwise would be inaccurate and misleading."

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Scotland is the only part of the UK to publish weekly A&E statistics, and the Scottish Government expects all boards to comply with the guidelines for recording waits against the four-hour A&E target, which covers attendances at all types of A&E sites, including in trolleyed areas of assessment units. We will contact all boards to seek assurance that this is being adhered to.

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“A&E departments continue to experience significant pressure and, in common with healthcare systems in the UK and globally, the pandemic is still impacting services.

“Recovery will not happen overnight and we are working closely with those boards experiencing the greatest pressures as we enter what will be an extremely challenging winter period.”

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