Scottish A&E waiting time performance second-worst since records began

Accident and Emergency waiting times throughout June were the second-worst since records began, according to the latest NHS Scotland figures.

Waiting times have been growing at under-pressure hospitals

Only 85 per cent of the 136,847 patients attending A&E were admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours, leaving 20,466 people waiting for longer than the target time.

A higher proportion of patients waiting longer than the Scottish Government’s target has only been recorded once before – in December 2019, when 83.8 per cent were seen in four hours.

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June’s figure is down from the 87.2 per cent recorded in May, and significantly below the 95.6 per cent seen in fours hours during the same month last year.

The Scottish Government’s target is for 95 per cent of patients to wait no longer than four hours, although this has not been met since July 2020.

The figures, published by Public Health Scotland, also reveal 2,396 (1.8 per cent) patients were waiting in A&E for more than eight hours and 532 (0.4 per cent) people faced waits of more than 12 hours.

Although attendances at A&E are now higher than during the coronavirus pandemic’s first wave – 136,847 patients in June 2021 compared with 112,185 in June 2020 – it is still 10,780 fewer than the pre-pandemic figure of 147,627 in June 2019.

The latest weekly figures also show declining A&E performances in relation to meeting the waiting time target, with just 20,954 (79.7 per cent) of the 26,305 admitted, transferred or discharged in four hours.

For the three full weeks of July recorded so far, more than one in five (20.5 per cent) have waited longer than four hours.

Last month also recorded two of the six times on record that waiting time performance has fallen below 80 per cent.

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “Scotland has had the best performing core A&E departments in the whole of UK for more than six years.

“We recognise the additional pressure our NHS staff are facing as they work tirelessly and consistently to respond to the pandemic whilst continuing to provide vital treatment and optimal patient care.

“We are in daily contact with every board and are monitoring the situation closely.

“Weekly performance is impacted due to a range of challenges including high attendances, staffing pressures due to isolation and annual leave and the continued requirement for infection control precautions which is impacting on the time people need to spend in A&E.

“To minimise pressures, I recently announced £12 million in additional funding to health boards across Scotland to support non-Covid emergency care.

“This immediate action will help put measures in place to reduce waiting times for urgent or emergency treatment, with a focus on boosting staffing levels and available beds.

“We continue to work with health boards through the redesign of urgent care programme to ensure people are seen safely and to help the public access the right care in the right place at the right time, often as close to home as possible.

“Through this programme, we are encouraging people to contact NHS 24 on 111 if they think they need A&E but their condition is not life-threatening.”

Scottish Conservative health spokeswoman Annie Wells said: “Accident and emergency waiting times are at their worst level in almost two years. The number of people waiting far too long for treatment is alarming.

“The number of planned operations being cancelled at the last minute has also reached the highest rate in months, leaving patients in the lurch.

“Humza Yousaf seems to be totally oblivious to the escalating predicament facing our frontline NHS staff.

“Prior to the pandemic, the SNP were routinely missing key targets, and despite everything Scotland has been through, this abysmal record is getting worse rather than improving.

“SNP ministers should urgently back Scottish Conservative plans for an extra £600 million investment in our NHS to specifically tackle waiting times.

“The SNP Government need to up their game to ensure our fantastic NHS staff are properly supported to give patients the healthcare they deserve.”

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