Lothian MSP says NHS in 'year-round crisis' as A&E waiting times reach record high

The NHS is now in year-round crisis, a Lothian MSP has claimed, as latest figures show fewer than half of patients going to Accident and Emergency at Edinburgh’s Royal Infirmary are seen within the four-hour target.

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Labour’s Foysol Choudhury said the system had to be properly staffed and resourced and called for better support for healthcare workers.

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Statistics released earlier this week by Public Health Scotland showed a record number of patients at Scotland's A&E departments waiting longer than four hours. A total of 8,993 people across the country had to wait longer than the target in the week up to June 26.

Mr Choudhury said: “The latest figures show that waiting times in NHS Lothian A&E departments are at historic highs. The last 18 months have seen a significant drop in compliance with the Scottish Government’s target of 95 per cent of A&E patients to be seen within four hours.

"The figures for NHS Lothian currently sit at 65.5 per cent of A&E patients being seen within four hours, with the Royal Infirmary at 49.1 per cent, one of the worst figures in the country.

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“I welcome the new appointments system for the Minor Injuries Unit, but this will only have an impact on overall waiting times if the whole system – including NHS 111 – is properly staffed, resourced and able to cope with the current and future levels of demand.

“Speaking to staff from NHS Lothian, they too often feel the stress of the pressures on the NHS. They are increasingly being abused at work by patients frustrated at long waiting times, and staff absences are being kept high by repeated waves of Covid. The Scottish Government must better support NHS staff to defuse the building crisis of morale among our healthcare workers.

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Lothian Labour MSP Foysol Choudhury says the NHS must be properly staffed and resourced

“Our NHS is now in a state of year-round crisis. The Scottish Government promised the Scottish people only last year that they would focus on pandemic recovery, and these latest figures only make it more disappointing that they are instead being distracted by their obsession with the constitutional question.”

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Jacquie Campbell, NHS Lothian’s chief officer of acute services, said: “The continuing effects of the pandemic are placing our services and staff under significant and sustained pressure.

“In line with community transmission levels, there are increased numbers of staff testing positive with Covid-19, who must then self-isolate to protect patients.

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“That, combined with high volumes of patients presenting with complex and serious cases, means that A&E in particular remains under extreme pressure.

“We urge everyone in Lothian to play their part. If you think you need to visit A&E, but it's not a critical emergency, call NHS 24 on 111 first. NHS 24 will direct you to the right care in the right place.”

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A Scottish Government spokesperson said Covid inpatient cases in hospitals were rising and having a detrimental impact on delays in A&E.

"Despite these pressures, nearly two-thirds of patients are being seen in A&E departments within the four-hour target. Scotland continues to have the best-performing A&Es in the UK, outperforming those in England, Wales and Northern Ireland for over six years.”

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She added that £50 million funding was being made available to support a range of measures to reduce A&E waiting times and improve patient experience, including alternatives to hospital-based treatment.

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