Humza Yousaf urged to act on worst-ever emergency department waiting times
Health secretary Humza Yousaf has vowed to improve performance in Scotland’s emergency departments after conceding that waiting-time statistics published today are “not acceptable”.
Figures released by Public Health Scotland this morning show that less than two-thirds of patients (63.5 per cent) were seen within four hours in the week to 11 September. The figures relate to emergency departments only and so reflect the experience of patients with more complex conditions than those attending minor-injury units.
While the average was significantly below the Scottish Government’s target of 95 per cent, the proportion of people being seen within four hours fell to a low of 38.3 per cent in NHS Forth Valley, with NHS Lanarkshire (51.9 per cent), NHS Fife (56.2 per cent) and NHS Lothian (60.4 per cent) also falling significantly short of the target.
Only NHS Western Isles exceeded 95 per cent, seeing 98.5 per cent of patients within the four-hour timeframe. NHS Shetland also came close at 91.6 per cent.
Public Health Scotland noted that from summer 2021 “the proportion of emergency department attendances being seen within four hours has dropped below 80 per cent and has remained at this rate for a prolonged period of time”.
Opposition politicians have highlighted that the weekly figures are the worst since the four-hour target was introduced in 2015 and called on Yousaf to take action ahead of the busy winter period.
Scottish Labour health spokesperson Jackie Baillie said that “lives will be being lost” as a result of the SNP government’s “life-threatening inaction” and warned there could be a “full-blown humanitarian crisis” if no action is taken.
“Long waits in A&E used to be a sign that there were problems and pressures elsewhere in the NHS system, but the SNP have ignored the warnings and now our NHS is in perpetual crisis with thousands of lives being put at risk in A&E departments on a weekly basis,” she said.
“While frontline NHS staff work tirelessly around the clock, Humza Yousaf has completely failed to make any meaningful attempt to address the underlying problems or control this crisis.
“If we are to avoid a full-blown humanitarian crisis this winter then the government must act now.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton noted that hospital staff are “at their wits’ end” due to the waiting times, adding that the statistics are "proof" that the Scottish Government’s £1bn NHS Recovery Plan, which was unveiled in August 2021, “has failed”.
“Ministers have sat on their hands long enough. The health secretary must come to parliament with a new plan for this winter before the crisis deepens further,” Cole-Hamilton said.
The Scottish Conservatives' health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane agreed, saying that Yousaf “must come up with an alternative strategy to tackle this crisis in Scotland's NHS, as his flimsy Covid Recovery Plan clearly isn't working”.
Yousaf noted that A&E departments are still under significant pressure due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic still being felt across the health service.
“Notwithstanding this, I am clear that the current level of performance is not acceptable, that is why I am determined to improve performance and am working closely with boards on a number of measures to reduce pressure on hospitals,” he added.
“This includes the national rollout of our outpatient antimicrobial therapy service which allows patients to be treated at home or in the community which has already saved 45,000 bed days.”