THE accident and emergency department at the Capital’s flagship hospital has been revealed as the worst performing in Scotland, new figures have shown.
In March, one in five emergency patients who arrived at the ERI waited longer than four hours to be admitted, discharged or transferred.
No other hospital in the country reported a higher proportion of patients waiting longer than the target over the month-long period.
While NHS Lothian said the situation has recently improved, the embarrassing statistics were published after the health board admitted that pressure on the hospital’s A&E, which is the busiest in Scotland, could be increased further this summer due to a staffing crisis.
Contingency plans have been drawn up which could see more patients diverted from St John’s Hospital to Edinburgh for out-of-hours care, despite the Livingston department performing far better against Holyrood’s four-hour goal.
At St John’s in March, 94.4 per cent of patients were seen on time, compared with the national average of 91.9 per cent and the Royal Infirmary’s dismal 80.2 per cent. The Government expects 98 per cent to be dealt with within four hours.
Labour Lothians MSP Sarah Boyack said an influx of patients to Edinburgh from West Lothian would only “make matters worse”. She added: “These figures are further evidence of the serious capacity issues at the ERI. In the last 12 months we’ve seen some of the worst compliance rates since the four-hour target was introduced.
“Dedicated hospital staff are working flat out to cope with demand but as the College of Emergency Medicine warned, A&E departments are facing unsustainable workloads.”
NHS Lothian chief executive Tim Davison had said that he hoped to introduce 80 new beds at the ERI by the summer, so fewer patients will become stuck in A&E while they wait for places on inpatient wards to become available.
Funding has been secured to open 26 beds, but another 31 are not expected to be provided until December, with another 20 planned for next year.
NHS Lothian said performance at the ERI has improved since March, with 93 per cent of patients being dealt with in four hours so far this month.
Melanie Hornett, NHS Lothian’s nurse director, said: “We are working hard to reduce the amount of time people are waiting across all our emergency departments and would apologise to anyone who has had to wait too long. We have invested significantly in improving unscheduled care and are encouraged to see that we have made significant improvements to our four-hour wait target in our emergency departments across Lothian in recent months.”