Labour issued the demand after new figures showed more than 9,600 patients waited more than four hours in the emergency department in the final week of October. In the week ending October 30, just 63.1 per cent of patients were treated and either admitted, transferred or discharged within the target time. The Scottish Government’s target is for 95 per cent of those attending in A&E to be dealt with within four hours.
It comes as The Scotsman revealed claims today that thousands of patients were being “deliberately hidden” from A&E figures.
The latest figures from Public Health Scotland showed that in the week ending October 30, of the 26,052 patients who went to A&E, the four-hour target was missed for 9,617. There were 3,393 patients who were in A&E for eight hours or more, with 1,447 there for a minimum of 12 hours.
In the wake of the latest data, Health Secretary Humza Yousaf issued a plea for people to only go to A&E “if their condition is an emergency”. He said: “We all have a part to play in reducing pressure on services this winter.”
But Labour health spokesperson Jackie Baillie said it was time for the “hopeless” Health Secretary to be removed from his job. She demanded: “The SNP’s race to the bottom must be stopped before things get any worse for our A&E departments. For months Scottish Labour has been calling on the Scottish Government to get a handle on this crisis, and yet we are continually left with record-breaking failures and nothing but empty words and endless excuses from this hopeless Health Secretary.”
Ms Baillie continued: “As the real winter crisis approaches, staff are on their knees with exhaustion and they cannot be left to face this crisis alone. Patients are going to have worse health outcomes or even die as a result of not being seen quickly. Scots will be wondering why, as the evidence builds, the First Minister seems to turn a blind eye to Humza Yousaf’s failures. It is time for the First Minister to sack her failing Health Secretary and put patients’ needs first.”
Meanwhile, Scottish Conservative health spokesman, Dr Sandesh Gulhane, said: “Just when you think Humza Yousaf’s catastrophic stewardship of the NHS can’t get any worse, fresh stats come out to prove you wrong.”
Dr Gulhane branded the latest waiting times statistics for A&E as “deplorable”, adding: “Patients at A&E are terrified – and so are over-stretched and dedicated frontline staff, who know that things will only get worse as winter pressures mount.” The Tory hit out: “Humza Yousaf needs to stop wringing his hands and start actually tackling these shameful waiting times, if we are to have any hope of averting disaster in our NHS this winter.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton was also critical of the Scottish Government, saying: “Another week, another record low recorded in our A&E departments. More people waiting in A&E departments means more avoidable deaths, it really is as simple as that.”
The Health Secretary accepted that the waiting times performance of emergency departments was “not where I want it to be”. Mr Yousaf said: “Covid continues to impact the delivery and performance of services and pandemic backlogs, Brexit-driven staff shortages, and inflation costs have all contributed to make this the most challenging winter the NHS has ever faced. As a result, we will continue to see fluctuations in performance over the course of winter. Despite this, I am clear that A&E performance is not where I want it to be.”
Mr Yousaf continued: “We have seen a rise in overall attendances, the largest increase in four weeks, and delayed discharge continues to be the single biggest factor driving up A&E waits. We are striving to ensure people leave hospital without delay and receive the right care in the right setting, ensuring vital hospital beds are there for those who need them most. We all have a part to play in reducing pressure on services this winter and I would urge people to only attend A&E if their condition is an emergency.”
He added that the Scottish Government’s £600 million winter plan “will see us recruit 1,000 new NHS staff, including up to 750 frontline nurses from overseas”. He also said that the £50 million Urgent and Unscheduled Care Collaborative initiative “looks to drive down A&E waits through scheduled urgent appointments, hospital at home and directing people to most appropriate care”.
Mr Yousaf added: “Our Near Me platform allows patients to attend virtual hospital and GP appointments from home and is already being used for around 40,000 consultations a month. Our new expansion of this scheme to community settings will further help to ease pressure on services, saving people time and money travelling to appointments.”