Health chiefs apologise for ‘lengthy waits’ at emergency departments

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A health board has apologised to patients who experienced “lengthy waits” at emergency departments as winter puts extra pressure on hospitals around the country.

The number of people in Scotland suffering from flu has more than doubled compared to the same period last year, latest figures show.

Around 46 Scots in every 100,000 were suffering from the virus during the last week in December 2017, up from 22 in every 100,000 for the same week in 2016, according to latest Health Protection Scotland (HPS) data.

Early testing also found that just over half of the circulating strains of flu match those in the 2017/18 vaccine.

The HPS report also highlights that around half of NHS Boards are reporting significant ward pressure as a result of the virus.

Fifteen operations at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow had to be cancelled on Thursday.

Jane Grant, chief executive of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, said: “Hospitals across Greater Glasgow and Clyde, like all hospitals in Scotland and across the UK, are extremely busy this winter with winter pressures from the flu, respiratory infections and norovirus.

“We planned for these winter pressures by creating extra capacity – such as extra inpatient beds at Gartnavel Hospital and restricting staff holidays. Our winter plan is designed to create extra resilience and enable us to respond to these additional pressures and open additional in-patient beds where appropriate.

“These winter beds are currently being used as part of our response to the winter pressures we are experiencing.

“We accept that a number of our patients have waited longer than we would have liked. However, this is due to the high level of demand and we apologise to those patients who experienced lengthy waits. When our patients are kept waiting for admission to hospital they are still receiving care from our doctors and nurses.”

A&E attendance in week ending December 24 was up almost 20% on the same period the previous year, while the Scottish Ambulance Service and NHS 24 also reported rises in call volume

Health Minister Shona Robison said: “Health staff across Scotland are dedicated to helping patients and are doing a fantastic job in difficult circumstances. These figures show once again the challenges they are tackling.

“So far the vaccine is proving to be effective against the most commonly encountered flu strains this season although it is still too early to have a complete picture, but there’s no doubt that the increase in cases, particularly affecting people with complex and multiple conditions, is putting increased pressure on our systems.

“This is contributing to a big rise in demand for NHS services that staff are responding to.”

She added: “Our £22.4m winter funding, the highest amount in any one year, will continue to be invested in boards throughout winter to help them cope with pressures. Scottish Government ministers, clinicians and senior officials are continuing to monitor the situation closely and keep in contact with boards to fully understand and assist with the pressures they are under.”

On Wednesday it emerged that NHS Lanarkshire is redeploying office staff to help at hospitals and GP surgeries amid soaring demand for A&E services across the country.

The health board is also one of several across Scotland that has been forced to temporarily postpone elective or non-urgent procedures due to the increased pressure on services.

Ms Robison said there is no blanket cancellation of non-urgent elective procedures for the month of January as is the case in England.

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