Health chiefs sorry as A&E patients face 8-hour wait

More people are facing long waits for treatment in A&E
More people are facing long waits for treatment in A&E
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NHS Lothian has apologised to patients who were forced to languish for eight hours or longer while waiting to be seen in accident and emergency departments.

In response to a parliamentary question this week, Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon revealed that it had taken the health board at least eight hours to see 1108 people in 2011-12.

Of those patients, 130 had still not been assessed by a doctor within 12 hours over the course of the financial year.

Last year, the number of patients waiting at least eight hours in Lothian hospitals was the highest recorded in the four years for which statistics were published, and had more than doubled since 2008-9 when just 470 had faced the delay.

Dr David Farquharson, medical director of NHS Lothian, said that less than half of one per cent of the 243,242 patients who were treated in emergency departments last year had waited eight hours or more.

“Our staff worked extremely hard to provide the best care and ensure that patients did not have long waits,” said Dr Farquharson. “Patients are assessed and seen in order according to need. However, a diagnostic decision or transfer to another site for specialty purposes may take significantly more time and we apologise to those who waited too long.”

There were 689 cases of patients waiting more than eight hours recorded at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, rising from 523 the previous year and 317 in 2008-9, but less than the 779 in 2009-10. In addition, it took at least eight hours to see 287 people at Livingston’s St John’s A&E last year, 124 patients were stuck at the emergency department at the Western General for eight hours, while eight endured the long wait at the Sick Kids.

Dr Farquharson added: “We are working closely with the Scottish Government to reduce waiting times and have begun implementing an action plan to put us back on track, and the figures show that it is already working. However, we will continue to look at ways of improving our service to build on the achievements so far.”

Across Scotland, 5097 patients waited eight hours or more in A&E departments, compared with 2190 in 2008-9.

Dr Jean Turner, executive director of the Scotland Patients Association, said the numbers were “horrifying”.

“They have got to realise these aren’t numbers, they are people. If you were one of the these people hanging about for that length of time you would feel abandoned. It’s not good enough.

“Targets are a great thing, but you have to provide staffing and accommodation levels to meet them. I think the staff are trying their best but it’s getting worse.”