Scots still facing long A&E waits

MANY Scottish patients are still facing long waits in A&E despite a multi-million-pound investment to improve emergency services, figures show.

Accident and Emergency at Edinburgh's Royal Infirmary. Picture: TSPL
Accident and Emergency at Edinburgh's Royal Infirmary. Picture: TSPL

While the percentage of people seen within four hours in A&E has increased in the past three months, more than 300 patients still waited more than eight hours for treatment.

But the Scottish Government also said that more than 90 per cent of patients were now being treated within 18 weeks of being referred by their GP.

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Health boards have been set a “standard” that states 98 per cent of patients attending A&E should be admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours.

But only six out of 14 boards are hitting the mark.

In April, 91.6 per cent of patients were seen within four hours, rising to 94.6 per cent in June – but this is down from 95.1 per cent a year ago. In June, 25 patients waited more than 12 hours, while 313 waited more than eight hours.

Pressures on the NHS tend to be highest during the winter, meaning improvements in performance during the spring and summer would be expected.

Yesterday, the Scottish Government said a further £6.8 million would go towards improvements in A&Es. The move is part of a £50m action plan to improve emergency care in the face of concerns that services cannot cope with increasing demand as an ageing population places further pressure on the NHS.

Attendances at A&E have increased from 1.6 million in 2008-09 to 1.65m in 2012-13.

Margaret Watt, chair of the Scotland Patients Association, said: “We need more communication and education for our patients because people don’t know when you should go to A&E,” she said. “Everyone is piling in on the staff in A&E and the demand is growing.”

Health secretary Alex Neil said: “These latest figures show that we have already seen an improvement in ensuring people are seen and treated in the right place at the right time by the right person, but we recognise there is still more to be done.”

A raft of figures published yesterday by health service data collection body ISD Scotland also showed that the number of patients waiting to leave hospital beyond a target of four weeks – so-called bed-blockers – has increased. The problem occurs when patients are ready to leave hospital but care, support and accommodation arrangements are not in place.

In July, 118 patients were still waiting to leave, compared with 44 in April when the target was brought in, official statistics showed. Last month, 59 patients were still waiting after six weeks, compared with 24 in April.

The target is due to fall to just two weeks by April next year.

But there was better news in waiting times for patients needing surgery or other treatment, with 91.6 per cent seen and treated within 18 weeks of being referred by their GP.

The figures also showed that 98.4 per cent of people were treated within 12 weeks of being diagnosed and their treatment decided, complying with the legal treatment time guarantee.

Suicide rate is more than treble for men

The rate of suicides in Scotland is falling, but levels remain high among men.

There were 830 suicides reported in Scotland in 2012, according to the Scottish Public Health Observatory, which recorded 7.1 suicides in women per 100,000 people while the rate for men was 24.5.

NHS staff weigh in to help children

More than 10,000 children in Scotland have been examined by NHS staff battling obesity.

The Scottish Government has a target to achieve 14,910 child “healthy weight interventions” – where families are offered advice to tackle obesity – in the three years to March 2014. By 31 March this year, there were 10,183 interventions.

Ill–wind blows for almost 20 years

Scottish women can expect to live almost 20 years of their life suffering from ill health.

Figures suggest that girls born in 2011 would be expected to live 80.9 years on average, but only 62.7 of these years classed as “healthy”.

Boys born in 2011 might live 76.6 years on average, 60.4 of these in a “healthy” state.