Government ‘has broken NHS waiting time promise’

Neil Findlay. Picture: contributed
Neil Findlay. Picture: contributed
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PATIENTS are being failed by a double whammy of soaring bed blocking rates and longer waits at stretched A&E units, according to new figures.

Both key areas are under intense strain across NHS Lothian, sparking criticism that the people who need help most are being failed.

Across Scotland, fewer people are spending long periods in A&E, with the Scottish Government’s target of 98 per cent of patients treated within four hours closer to being met.

However, NHS Lothian had among the lowest compliance rate in the country, with 92.3 per cent of patients seen within four hours in December, down from 93.7 per cent the previous month and below the Scottish average of 93.5 per cent. Tayside topped the table with 99.2 per cent.

Scottish Labour health spokesman Neil Findlay, a Lothian MSP, said: “Less than three months ago the Scottish Government gave a guarantee that they would meet their waiting times targets over winter. They have broken that promise.

“With a mild winter for the majority of the Scotland, it has been luck and not planning from the health secretary Alex Neil which has saved A&E departments from the pressures of previous years.

“Waiting times targets have not been met for almost four and a half years and just last month we heard that some people are waiting as long as 22 hours to be treated, discharged or admitted from A&E.

“Alex Neil needs to wake up and realise that there is an intrinsic link between the problems at A&E and the bottlenecks in other parts of hospitals. The only way to solve this is to have a full scale review of the NHS and work with staff, patient groups and health bodies to devise a long-term plan to resolve these issues.”

Cases of bed blocking – where patients cannot be discharged after their treatment has been completed – have risen across Scotland.

In Lothian, the number of bed days lost to delayed discharge rose from 25,438 during the three months October to December 2012 to 29,655 for the same period last year. In Edinburgh alone, the latest figure was 21,244, up from 18,161.

Tory health spokesman Jackson Carlaw MSP said:“It’s no wonder we have capacity issues when hundreds of thousands of bed days are lost because of this. It is entirely unacceptable for vulnerable patients to be languishing in hospital when they’re perfectly fit to leave.”

Professor Alex McMahon, NHS Lothian director of strategic planning, said: “We have invested significantly over the last year in improving emergency care.

“Patients who need to be treated are prioritised by clinical need and our staff work extremely hard to ensure patients are seen, diagnosed, treated and admitted or discharged as quickly as possible.”

On delayed discharges, he said: “We are working closely with our local authority partners to ensure patients do not have to stay in hospital once their treatment is complete.”