Revealed: the hospitals where you could face 12-hour wait in casualty
THE number of emergency patients in Scotland who have to wait for 12 hours to be seen by a doctor has doubled over the past four years, according to figures released yesterday.
Health secretary Nicola Sturgeon revealed that 882 patients had to wait more than 12 hours to be seen in A&E last year, up from just 400 in 2008-9.
The numbers having to wait more than eight hours have also shot up, from 2,190 in 2008 to 5,097 last year. The release of the figures prompted claims from Labour that cuts to the number of nursing staff across hospitals in Scotland were to blame, meaning hundreds of patients were having to wait for unacceptable periods of time before being treated.
However, the Scottish Government hit back, insisting that, while long waits did exist, the “vast majority” of patients were being seen within four hours of arriving at A&E.
The figures, which were released in response to questions from Labour MSP Margaret McCulloch, show how patients in some A&E units are suffering far more than others. At Queen Margaret Hospital in Dunfermline, the numbers waiting more than 12 hours have risen from 35 patients in 2008-9 to 256 in the last financial year.
At the Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy, also run by NHS Fife, the numbers have shot up over the same period from 30 to 220.
Similarly, for waits over eight hours, both hospitals show massive increases in waiting times, accounting for about one in three of all such waits across the entire country.
Other hospitals that have seen rapid increases in the number of long waits include Hairmyres in East Kilbride, where the number of people waiting more than 12 hours has risen from 75 to 148 over the past four years. The numbers waiting more than eight hours rose over the same period from 250 to 548.
At the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, the same figure has gone up from 317 to 689.
By contrast, some of the country’s busiest hospitals, such as the Glasgow Royal Infirmary, show only a handful of patients waiting for such lengthy periods.
Other hospitals, such as Wishaw General, have presided over a fall in the number of such delays.
Labour last night linked the overall increases in lengthy waits to the drop in the number of nurses. Latest figures from NHS Scotland show the number of full-time nurses has fallen from a high of 58,428 in 2009 to 56,467 in March of this year.
Ms McCulloch said: “These are shocking figures.
“Thousands of Scots who are in distress and needing urgent treatment are being left to wait for unacceptable amounts of time when they turn up at hospitals across Scotland.
“The NHS in Scotland can’t keep working if the SNP cut thousands of clinical staff and, with more cuts to come, these figures will only continue to worsen.”
Scottish Labour’s shadow cabinet secretary for health, Jackie Baillie MSP, said: “Whilst Sturgeon and the rest of the SNP are obsessed with a separation referendum, the day-to-day workings of Scottish Government are being neglected, and these figures are more evidence of this.”
Questions about waiting times for patients have been raised in recent months after it emerged that NHS Lothian had been classifying patients as “unavailable”, in order to remove them from the waiting list.
The attempt to “fiddle” the figures came as ministers insisted that 90 per cent of patients should be treated within 18 weeks of them being referred by their GPs.
A spokesperson for BMA Scotland said: “For individual patients, waiting for NHS treatment can be a particularly difficult and stressful time, and it is important that those with the greatest clinical need receive appropriate care within a reasonable timescale.
“It is important that health boards work with doctors to address any underlying causes of delays and ensure that the necessary resources are made available.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said last night that the health budget – of which NHS boards take the lion’s share – was protected from cutbacks that have hit other spending departments.
On the specific figures, she added: “The vast majority of people who attend A&E – 95.3 per cent – are seen within four hours of admission. In April 2006, when a sample survey of accident and emergency waiting times was done, 87.6 per cent of people were seen within four hours.”
She added: “We are also working to reduce the number of inappropriate attendances at emergency departments and ensure the public are aware of the range of services on offer, for example minor injuries units, and which departments are most suitable for their needs.
“Across the NHS, people continue to be treated more quickly, there have been huge reductions in hospital infections, and we are investing more than £2bn in Scotland’s health infrastructure.”