ERI one of Scotland’s worst hospitals on waiting times

Concerns have been raised that time-wasters are hampering efforts to help geniune emergency cases. Picture: Tony Marsh
Concerns have been raised that time-wasters are hampering efforts to help geniune emergency cases. Picture: Tony Marsh
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EDINBURGH Royal Infirmary was today named as one of Scotland’s worst hospital’s at missing A&E targets for patients to be seen within four hours.

An Audit Scotland report revealed the Capital’s flagship hospital also came top for last-gasp admissions – with almost one in five patients rushed through treatment in the ten minutes before the crucial four-hour waiting benchmark expires.

The Sick Kids was also singled out for the same criticism: that patients are being rushed in just to meet stringent waiting time targets laid down by the Scottish Government.

The report’s revelations have exasperated medical staff who feel their problems stem from the fact too many people are rushing to A&E when they don’t need to be there.

“At least 70 per cent of people who turn up to A&E shouldn’t even be there,” an NHS Lothian insider told the Evening News.

But hard-pressed patients – many unable to get speedy GP appointments – fear they often have nowhere else to turn for treatment.

Scotland-wide, the number of patients waiting four hours or more has almost trebled from 36,000 in 2009 to 104,000 last year, the report reveals.

The failure has been seized upon by the Tories, with their health spokesman Jackson Carlaw MSP saying: “In the last five years performance has dipped considerably, and the SNP has to explain why it has allowed this to happen.”

The report suggests rushed admissions can lead to lengthier hospital stays with more than half of patients across Scotland admitted in the final ten minutes there for three days or more.

But it said from the data available it was not possible to tell whether patients were being admitted to hospital inappropriately in order to meet the targets.

The ERI saw the percentage of targets met improve from 80.2 per cent in March 2013 to 90.6 per cent by December last year. Nonetheless, the busiest A&E in Scotland was criticised as it “continued to perform poorly” against the interim target of 95 per cent.

Hugh Henry, convener of the Public Audit Committee, described the overall findings as “extremely worrying”. “By now we should have been seeing signs of progress,” he said.

In March, we revealed how Health Minister Alex Neil ordered hospitals to get tough with time wasters and re-direct non-urgent cases by using a new triage system.

Under the change, non-emergency patients will be shoved towards GPs and NHS 24. Today Melanie Johnson, director of unscheduled care at NHS Lothian, apologised to patients forced to wait.

“Our performance has improved over the last year, especially during the winter months. We will continue to build on that improvement by employing more staff and improving and expanding facilities,” she said.

kate.pickles@edinburghnews.com