Minister forced to correct A&E waiting times claim

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AN ATTEMPT by health secretary Shona Robison to publicise improving A&E waiting times was undermined when it was falsely claimed 13 out of 14 health boards had met a key target.

The government was forced to correct its claim that all but one of Scotland’s health boards treated 95 per cent of accident and emergency patients within four hours.

The error was pointed out by the Lib Dem health spokesman Jim Hume, who trawled the official data and found that NHS Ayrshire and Arran (94.6 per cent); NHS Grampian (94.7 per cent); NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (93.9 per cent); and NHS Lothian (94.7 per cent) had fallen short of the target.

The government was forced to release a corrected statement from Ms Robison, who had originally claimed that it was “good to see that every health board in Scotland treated nine out of ten people within four hours with 13 reaching 95 per cent”.

The amended statement quoted Ms Robison as saying: “It is also good to see that every health board in Scotland treated nine out of ten people within four hours, with 13 treating around, or more than 95 per cent.”

Mr Hume said: “It seems they have been up to their old tricks of putting spin before substance.

“This isn’t fair on patients or on NHS staff. The crisis in our A&E units throughout the SNP’s time in office has shown that a hand-to-mouth approach will not work for our hospitals.  SNP ministers must listen to NHS staff and patients if they are to secure long-term success against A&E waiting times.”

Despite the error, the figures showed the best performance since weekly reporting began in February.

Ms Robison said: “NHS staff have been working extremely hard to cut waiting times and deliver a first-class service, and the figures published today are testament to this.”

When the figures across Scotland were averaged out, it was found that 95.4 per cent of patients were seen and then admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours in the week ending 12 July.

The Scottish Government has set an interim goal of treating 95 per cent of people in four hours in advance of meeting the full target of 98 per cent.

It is the first time the 30 emergency sites have collectively topped the 95 per cent performance rate since weekly reporting started in February, when the figure was 86.1 per cent.

A total of 61 patients spent more than eight hours in A&E while seven people spent more than 12 hours in the departments.

Ms Robison said: “We now need to maintain this improvement and continue to achieve 95 per cent nationally throughout the summer to ensure that all health boards are in an optimum position as we head in to this winter.”

Labour’s health spokeswoman Jenny Marra said she welcomed the progress but reminded the government that some hospitals were missing targets at what was the quietest time of the year.

“We look forward to the Scottish Government setting out how it plans to bring all of Scotland’s hospitals up to scratch, concentrating on the hospitals and health boards where there are persistent problems,” said Ms Marra.

“They also need to explain how they will maintain this standard into the busy winter months and reach their full target of 98 per cent of patients being seen within four hours.”