DOZENS of patients have been left languishing in Lothian emergency departments for more than 12 hours as waiting times figures slumped to the worst level since weekly recording began.
NHS data revealed that 38 patients waited for three times the Scottish Government’s four-hour limit in the week to January 31, compared to the average figure of just one or two.
These figures are unacceptable. It’s particularly worrying to find Edinburgh Royal Infirmary has the worst performance rate in the whole of Scotland in all categories.Sarah Boyack
The figures reveal pressure was most acute at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary (ERI), where 35 patients waited more than half a day.
The Capital’s flagship hospital reported the worst figures in Scotland as just 79.6 per cent of patients were seen within four hours, against the Scottish Government’s 95 per cent target.
Health chiefs apologised to patients and insisted the spike in long waits was caused by rising numbers of seriously ill patients needing treatment.
But politicians questioned whether increasing pressure on GP surgeries and social care was pushing people who did not need emergency treatment to visit A&E.
Lothian Labour MSP Sarah Boyack branded the figures “unacceptable” and questioned why the health board had fallen behind the rest of the country.
Ms Boyack said: “These figures are unacceptable. It’s particularly worrying to find Edinburgh Royal Infirmary has the worst performance rate in the whole of Scotland in all categories.
“We urgently need to know why NHS Lothian is out of step with the rest of the country. Are patients being forced to go to A&E because of lack of NHS services in our communities?
“Constituents have told me about being left with no choice to turn up at the emergency department because they don’t have access to the appropriate care services within their community, whether that’s the local GP service or home care visits.
“NHS Lothian must examine what more can be done to ensure patients can get access to the community health services they need at all times in order to reduce the pressure on our A&E departments.”
Patients who turn up with minor ailments are a continuing problem for stretched A&Es where staff are working flat out, said Tam Waterson, Unison Lothian branch chair. He added: “It’s unacceptable patients should have to wait that long and there does need to be more investment from the Scottish Government into the NHS and staffing.
“We need to spread the skill mix ato ensure everyone is being allowed to work to the fullest capacity.”
Jim Crombie, chief officer of acute services at NHS Lothian, said: “I would like to apologise to anyone who has had a long wait.
“Our teams always aspire to at least achieve and often exceed the nationally agreed four-hour waiting time standard, but this has been a very challenging time.
“Our dedicated teams of staff provided care and treatment to a higher than normal number of patients with serious illnesses and they worked extremely hard to ensure patients were seen as quickly as possible, but we recognise that we fell below our own expectations and we are working hard to improve our performance.”