Winter demand on NHS Scotland higher than expected
Paramedics going to callouts alone amid increasing pressure on NHS boards
Glasgow ambulance - michel
Demand on NHS emergency departments in Scotland in the week before Christmas was a fifth higher than in the previous year, it has emerged.
Across Scotland, 26,569 people visited A&E in the week ending 24th December, up almost 20 per cent - or over 4,000 attendances - on the same week last year.
The ISD Scotland statistics show just 83.3 per cent of patients in emergency departments were seen within the 4 hour target, far below the 95 per cent target, during the week.
The figures come as some health boards report the cancellation of some routine operations to cope with the pressures.
At NHS Lanarkshire, office staff have volunteered to take on cleaning duties to support frontline clinical staff, while NHS 24 reported the highest ever number of calls to its helpline.
Health Secretary Shona Robison thanked staff.
“Our NHS and community health service do a fantastic job all year round, but there is no doubt that winter can bring additional demands and I’d like to thank them once again for the dedication they have shown during this busy winter period," she said.
“We’re working with Boards to help them cope with pressures, and this year alone we have invested £22.4m to create extra resilience across the system.”
The Scottish Conservatives revealed figures which showed 10,000 ambulances have been dispatched in the last four years with only a single crew member.
There were 2,204 occasions last year alone where paramedics were forced to attend an emergency on their own, despite promises from the Scottish Government this would only happen "in exceptional circumstances".
In December UNISON warned staffing levels at the Scottish Ambulance service were "dangerously low" and being told to sign off sick if they couldn't cope.
Scottish Conservative public health spokeswoman Annie Wells said: “Everyone accepts that in the emergency services there will always be times where rules have to be bent and people need to adapt to developing situations.
“But for single crews to be sent out on 10,000 occasions in four years – when the specific policy is not to do that – is unacceptable.
“The SNP government has to take responsibility for this."
Scottish Labour described the pressure on the NHS as a "winter meltdown".
The party's health spokesman Anas Sarwar said: “Our hard-working doctors, nurses and NHS staff go beyond the line of duty over the winter break, working Christmas and New Year’s Day to save lives and keep us healthy.
“But the truth is they are not receiving the resources they need and deserve to do their jobs."
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Gregor Smith said: “These figures illustrate the demands being placed on health staff right across Scotland as a result of spikes in various illnesses such as flu.
“We can all play a part in ensuring demand on our most acute services is minimised however by taking time to think of the best way to access treatment.
“Local pharmacies can help with minor ailments and minor injuries units should be the first port of call for sprains, cuts and suspected fractures, while NHS 24 will help when the GP surgery or pharmacy is closed and you are too ill to wait."
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