Lothian MSP says more hospital beds needed to cut A&E waiting times
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Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs said in 2012/13, NHS Lothian had an average of 2,236 available staffed beds, which had fallen to 2,058 by 2019/20.
During the pandemic hospital capacity was increased, with the average number of available staffed beds in Lothian rising to 2,137 in 2020/21.
But after NHS Lothian reported record waiting times in A&E, with over a third of patients having to wait longer than the four-hour target, Mr Briggs said bed numbers needed to return to 2012/13 levels to prevent “exit block” in emergency departments.
Last week the Royal College of Emergency Medicine said many A&E units were struggling because there were too few beds available elsewhere in hospitals.
Doctors have claimed that 1,000 extra hospital beds are needed to help relieve the "unrelenting pressure" facing Scotland's emergency departments.
Mr Briggs, said: “We are facing a crisis in hospitals across NHS Lothian, with A&E departments under severe pressure.
“SNP ministers have not done enough to support GP practices to return to full operating capacity, which has led to more A&E attendances.
“The shortage of available hospital beds is one of the main reasons why A&E waiting times are at records highs.”
Three weeks ago, the Evening News reported how the A&E department at Edinburgh's Royal Infirmary was "bursting at the seams", with patients left on trolleys for hours.
Official figures show that on September 12, just 66.1 per cent of patients at Lothian A&E departments were seen within four hours, compared with 71.8 per cent the previous week and figures in the 80s and 90s from Juy 4 all the way back to March 2020.
Mr Briggs said: “Under this SNP government we have a lot fewer staffed hospital beds than we did ten years ago, which left us badly prepared for the Covid-19 pandemic.
"It’s now acutely obvious that SNP underfunding of NHS Lothian is directly impacting on its ability to fund the acute hospital beds the population across the region needs.”
NHS Lothian deputy chief executive Jim Crombie said: “Health and social care services in Lothian and the rest of Scotland are facing some of the toughest challenges they have ever encountered, but they cannot simply be ascribed to the number of hospital beds."
“Staffing pressures caused by increased levels of general sickness and self-isolation as part of the pandemic have impacted across the whole system and in turn reduce the current number of beds that can safely remain open at a time.
"Community and social care systems are also experiencing the same staffing pressures meaning that patients who are medically fit to leave hospital cannot always be discharged if they need onward care in a more homely setting.
“A range of measures have been put in place to help mitigate the pressures being faced across the system, hundreds of new staff have been recruited and more ways of streamlining services are being investigated to ensure we can continue to provide safe and effective patient care.”
He urged people only to attend A&E in a life-threatening emergency and otherwise to call NHS 24 on 111.