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Number of A&E patients waiting longer than four hours highest on record

The waiting times figures cover the week up to June 26 (Peter Byrne/PA)
The waiting times figures cover the week up to June 26 (Peter Byrne/PA)

The number of patients at Scotland’s A&E departments waiting longer than four hours has grown to the highest on record, new figures show.

Data from Public Health Scotland, released on Tuesday, shows that 8,993 people waited more than four hours in emergency departments in the week up to June 26.

The previous high was seen in the week up to March 20, when 8,631 patients were waiting longer than four hours – the Scottish Government’s target time for patients to be assessed and discharged or admitted.

During the same week, 2,647 people waited more than eight hours while 1,043 people waited more than 12 hours.

The latest figures show that in the week up to June 26 one third of people waited more than four hours.

Just 67.5% of the 27,646 attendances were seen in the time frame, short of the 95% government target.

That figure decreased slightly from 68.1% the previous week.

Similar figures for the month of May showed more than a quarter (73%) of people waiting longer than the target time.

Some 9,953 people (7.4%) waited longer than eight hours while 3,284 patients (2.5%) were in emergency departments longer than 12 hours.

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “The number of Covid inpatients in hospital is rising and having a detrimental impact on delays in A&E.

“Despite these pressures, nearly two-thirds of patients are being seen in our A&E departments within the four-hour target.”

He added: “We continue to see high levels of Covid transmission and people in hospitals with the virus which is resulting in reduced capacity in our hospitals and staff absence.

“We encourage people to think carefully before going to an emergency department and for many A&E will not be the right place for their healthcare need.

“People should consider whether their condition is an emergency, such as a stroke, heart attack or major trauma. NHS 24 is available for those who think they need A&E but it is not an emergency.

“Scotland continues to have the best performing A&Es in the UK, outperforming those in England, Wales and Northern Ireland for over six years.”

Scottish Tory health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane said the fact that waiting times were getting worse in the summer, when they should be improving, was a “measure of the scale of the crisis”.

“It’s simply unacceptable that a third of patients are having to wait more than four hours to be seen – and that almost a thousand people in the space of a week waited at least half a day – because we know that excess delays lead to needless deaths,” he said.

“The buck stops with Humza Yousaf, who is letting down dedicated frontline staff and patients alike.

“His flimsy Covid Recovery Plan isn’t fit for purpose, while – as the outgoing chair of BMA Scotland pointed out last week – the SNP’s woeful workforce planning meant our emergency wards were understaffed before, during and after the pandemic.”

Scottish Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said the Scottish Government has shifted its focus to “an unwanted independence referendum”, adding that “patients and staff alike are being taken for granted”.

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