Top of table but hospitals still lag on waiting times

The emergency department at the ERI. Picture: Greg Macvean
The emergency department at the ERI. Picture: Greg Macvean
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Accident and Emergency departments in the Lothians are performing far better than those across the rest of Scotland – but still fail to meet key waiting time targets.

The government has bowed to rising political pressure to produce weekly data in line with health boards in England, which revealed yesterday that NHS Lothian’s core A&E departments saw 94.5 per cent of people within four hours – far exceeding the national ­average of 86.1 per cent.

However, the figure was still just below the 95 per cent Scottish Government target.

The health board’s weekly figure is a significant improvement on monthly waiting figures during January 2015, which revealed hospitals saw 88.4 per cent of patients within four hours. Again, this was also above the national average of 85.4 per cent.

Individual hospitals performed well with Sick Kids Hospital seeing 98.5 per cent of patients within the targeted limits, while the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary saw 93.7 per cent of patients and St John’s Hospital, in Livingston, reported 92.9 per cent.

Melanie Johnson, director of unscheduled care at NHS Lothian, said: “We are encouraged by these figures which show that we are providing swift and effective care for our patients at our emergency departments, including at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, which is the busiest in Scotland.”

Health Secretary Shona Robison hailed the figures after one of the worst winter’s for Scottish A&E’s in years and praised improvements in bed-blocking in West Lothian and Midlothian.

She said: “Of course, there is always more to be done. This is why in January we also committed £100 million specifically to help health boards and local authorities tackle delayed discharge.

“This is both good for the patient and frees up beds to help people move out of A&E and through the system.

She added: “I am determined to work with all health boards across the country to improve performance and ensure waits are brought down for patients.”

But union bosses warned against relying too much on targets to improve performance. Tom Waterson, branch chair for Unison Lothian, said: “These improvements are a testament to the hard work of the staff in all hospitals across Scotland.

“Unison believes targets are causing extra pressure to be put on staff and decisions may not be made with clinical benefits in mind. We don’t want to be in a position where people are being moved just so they can meet the four-hour target.”

The worst performing health board was NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, which saw only 75.9 per cent of patients within the targeted time, with health boards in Grampian, Orkney and Lanarkshire among those failing to reach the government-imposed target.

lizzy.buchan@edinburghnews.com