'We are facing a crisis like never before' - warnings over 'extreme' pressure on Scottish A&E departments as wait times increase

Picture: John YoungPicture: John Young
Picture: John Young
Scotland is facing a “crisis like never before” in its Accident and Emergency Departments with the worst still to come, top medics have warned.

Scotland is “not resourced” for the level of demand the country is currently seeing in emergency departments struggling to cope with Covid-19 on top of

usual winter pressures and the recent bout of ice and snow-related falls, the Royal College of Emergency Medicine has warned.

Dr John Thomson, Vice President in Scotland, said the college had seen a rise in ambulances queuing outside hospitals, and patients being treated in corridors rather than on wards.

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It comes as new figures released on Tuesday show the number of patients arriving at A&E in the week ending January 3 was 18,911.

While this represented a decrease on the new year period a year before, it was a rise from the previous week.

The number of patients who spent more than eight hours waiting in A&E doubled compared to the week before, to 495, and the number waiting more than 12 hours rose 150% to 127.

Waiting times have increased throughout the winter. This week’s figures show 2.6 per cent of patients waiting more than eight hours, while in the week to October 4 it was 0.7 per cent.

The Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow was forced to turn away emergency patients last week while the A&E department was “overwhelmed” by Covid-19 cases.

Health boards across the country have made urgent pleas for Scots to stay inside the house during recent icy weather, as emergency departments struggle to cope.

“We are currently facing an extreme amount of pressure in our hospitals. Winter has presented its own significant challenge but together with the surge of Covid in the community we are facing a crisis like never before,” warned Dr John Thomson, Vice President in Scotland of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine.

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He added: “And we have not seen the worst of it yet. Doctors and healthcare staff across Scotland are doing exceptional work. They are doing all they can to expand capacity and find more resources, with some staff working extra shifts or being redeployed.

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“But this is a major challenge. We knew before the pandemic that we did not have enough beds or enough staff in the system. We are not resourced for this level of demand.

“We are seeing ambulances queuing outside departments more frequently, unable to admit patients into Emergency Departments. We are seeing a large number of 12-hour waits, and doctors, due to the incomparable circumstances, are being forced to administer care in corridors.

“We are seeing the true extent of the shortages we face, and it is patients and staff who are suffering the consequences.”

In response to the figures, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said the Scottish Government is “monitoring the situation closely” and is in daily contact with those sites under most pressure.

She added: “While the current restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic may have alleviated some of the traditional pressures on A&E over the New Year period; increased Covid admission rates, infection control precautions, staff absence and winter challenges such as an increase in trauma presentations due to slips, trips and falls from icy conditions have exacerbated current pressures.”

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