Fall in NHS patients seen on time ‘should be wake-up call’

The number of patients seen on time in A&E is dropping. Picture: PA
The number of patients seen on time in A&E is dropping. Picture: PA
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New figures showing a fall in patients seen on time at A&E should act as a “wake-up call” for ministers as winter approaches, opposition parties have said.

Statistics for the week ending 9 October show 92.6 per cent of all patients were seen and either admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours – below the Scottish Government’s interim target of 95 per cent.

They show 130 people spent more than eight hours in an emergency department while 22 spent more than 12 hours.

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said the weekly figures were the worst since March while Scottish Labour’s Anas Sarwar said the missed targets indicated staff were under pressure.

Data for Glasgow’s flagship Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) show only 84.9 per cent of patients were seen within the four-hour target time.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “These are the worst weekly A&E performance statistics that we have seen since March 27.

“Winter is coming and pressure on doctors and nurses working on the frontline of our NHS is only going to get worse.

“The flagship QEUH in Glasgow is still clearly facing big challenges in delivering sustained improvement against waiting-time targets despite specialist support. Other sites are struggling to meet targets too.

“SNP ministers cannot afford to simply cross their fingers and hope for the best. Doctors, nurses and patients need extra support now.”

Mr Sarwar said: “The SNP should take these missed A&E targets as a wake-up call before winter, which always increases pressure on our A&E wards.

“Already, one in four GP practices are under-staffed and our hospitals are facing increasing pressure under the SNP government – with nine out of ten nurses saying their workload is getting worse.”

Public health minister Aileen Campbell said: “The last few weeks have been very busy for our hospitals, with A&E attendances significantly above last year.

“However, our emergency departments are still maintaining a high level of performance, with Scotland’s A&E waiting times consistently outperforming other areas of the UK.

“In fact, we have had better performance than England, at our core emergency sites, for the last 18 consecutive months.”

Figures released yesterday showed that winter deaths fell to just over 20,500 last year, down from a 15-year high of more than 22,000 the previous year.

The statistics from National Records of Scotland (NRS) showed 20,503 deaths were registered between December 2015 and March 2016, down from 22,013 in the same period in 2014/15.

The seasonal difference for last winter – calculated by comparing the four winter months with the average of the four-month periods before and after the winter – was 2,850.

This was 1,210 fewer than 2014/15 when the seasonal difference was 4,060, but still exceeded the level in eight of the ten previous winters.

The figures show the seasonal difference among people aged 85 and over fell significantly in 2015/16, down from 1,940 the previous year to 970.

The 75-84 age group also saw a decrease, down from 1,240 in 2014/15 to 910 in 2015/16.

Meanwhile, the seasonal difference in those aged up to 64 rose from 270 in 2014/15 to 450 last winter.