Patients at Aberdeen’s A&E department are waiting longer than ever, new figures have revealed.
The latest weekly statistics published by Public Health Scotland reveal that just 71.3% of A&E patients across the country were seen, discharged or admitted to another ward within the four-hour target in the week ending October 3.
It is the lowest percentage since records began, and well below the Scottish Government’s target of 95%. However, this target has not been met since July 2020.
Among the worst for waiting times was Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, who attended to 64.3% of patients – a record breaking low for the hospital.
It makes it the sixth worst performing hospital in the country.
However Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital was one of the best ranking, on the cusp of the government’s target at 92.3%.
As a health board, NHS Grampian was the fifth worst performing where just 75.7% of A&E patients were seen within the target time.
The number one worst performing board was NHS Forth Valley (50.3%), followed by NHS Lanarkshire (62.9%) and NHS Fife (64.8%).
Only Scotland’s island health boards – NHS Western Isles (100%), NHS Shetland (98.3%) and NHS Orkney (95.9%) met the waiting time target.
‘Incredibly difficult winter’
The Army has been drafted in to drive ambulances due to shortages, but it has been claimed this has added to the crisis at A&E doors as there is no space for the patients.
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf last week warned that Scotland’s NHS faced an “incredibly difficult winter” despite announcing a £300m funding boost.
In response, shadow health spokeman Sandesh Gulhane accused Mr Yousaf of leaving A&E departments “beyond breaking point”.
The MSP said: “These figures are nothing short of an unmitigated disaster for Humza Yousaf.
“He has completely failed to resource our A&E departments that are beyond breaking point.
“His inaction is putting heroic staff under immense pressure before we even hit the peak winter period.”
Scottish Labour’s health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie, added: “It is becoming clear that we are on track for another winter catastrophe this year if we fail to act.
“The SNP need to listen to the warnings from staff on the front line and get a grip on the growing emergency in our NHS before the cold weather really bites.
“There is no time to waste when this many lives are on the line.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said the numbers were “terrifying” for staff and patients alike.
“The NHS has always been a safety net for anyone who needs it but, after years of poor workforce management, that net has huge holes in it,” he said. “Undoubtedly, people will be slipping through.
“The health service isn’t just struggling, it is being crippled by government mismanagement.
“There simply aren’t enough nurses available to prop hospitals up.”
Government ‘working closely’ with sites under greatest pressure
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said the coronavirus pandemic had “inevitably affected A&E attendance” – but stressed that £27m had been allocated to address urgent care within the NHS.
“Our NHS staff have faced unprecedented pressures over recent weeks as they work tirelessly and consistently to respond to the pandemic whilst continuing to provide vital treatment and optimal patient care,” she said.
“To minimise pressures as much as possible this winter, we’ve recently announced £300m of measures to help increase NHS and social care capacity in our hospitals and reduce delayed discharges.
“In the meantime, we will continue to work closely with those sites facing the greatest challenges to ensure rapid recovery plans are in place and are in contact daily.”
NHS Grampian comment
Interim portfolio lead for unscheduled care and medicine, Sandra MacLeod said: “Patients having to wait longer than expected at the Emergency Department is unfortunate and we apologise to everyone who has been affected by this.
“NHS Grampian, like the rest of NHS Scotland, is continuing to face unprecedent pressure and strain across all its services – including those in the community, primary care and acute care – amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
“These increased pressures – including those on capacity, staffing and increased infection, prevention and control – mean we cannot treat as many patients at one time as we could previously and it is more difficult to discharge patients from the Emergency Department into the hospital or back to a community setting.
“We would assure the public that cases are triaged with those facing life-threatening situations – such as heart attacks or strokes – continuing to be seen rapidly for life-saving treatment as an absolute priority.
“Our staff continue to work extremely hard under these pressures and we would once again like to publicly thank them for their incredible efforts.
“It is vital that in order to assist us, members of the public call NHS 24 on 111 prior to coming to hospital, unless the situation is life-threatening – for example a suspected heart attack or stroke – in which case they should call 999.”