HEALTH Secretary Shona Robison has admitted waiting times in accident and emergency at Edinburgh’s busiest hospital are “unacceptable”.
The Royal infirmary has not hit the accident and emergency (A&E) four-hour waiting time target at any time in the past six months.
In a written question, Lothian Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale asked for a response to recent official figures showing only 62.7 per cent of people waiting at A&E being seen within four hours and demanded to know when the hospital would reach the 95 per cent target.
Ms Robison replied: “The Scottish Government recognises that performance against the four hour A&E target at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh is unacceptable – long delays are not acceptable when not clinically justified.”
She pointed to seasonal increase in demand and the persistent problem of bed-blocking as contributory factors. But she said NHS Lothian was now redesigning the A&E department to improve waiting times.
Ms Robison has come under pressure to resign amid worsening statistics on cancelled operations, delayed discharge and A&E waiting times, as well as the scandal in NHS Tayside where over £2 million of the board’s endowment fund was used for routine NHS services.
In her written reply to Ms Dugdale she said: “In addition to winter pressures, the hospital has and continues to experience unacceptable levels of delayed discharges, which significantly impacts on performance. NHS Lothian has the highest rate of delayed discharges of any mainland health board in Scotland.
“To support improved waiting times for patients attending A&E the health board is putting in place a number of actions, including the redesign of the A&E department to develop a GP assessment unit and ambulatory care unit – the board will also introduce an observation area for patients expected to stay no longer than eight hours. We will monitor progress against these actions very closely.”
Ms Robison said a review of Lothian’s A&E departments ordered after it was discovered statistics were being misreported had now been completed. And she promised a “robust implementation plan” to ensure waiting times improved.
“In terms of additional resources, including funding, this will be determined once the action plan has been agreed.”
Ms Dugdale said: “After months of pressure, the Health Secretary has finally admitted the situation in NHS Lothian is ‘unacceptable’.
“But while Shona Robison claims that action is being taken, the situation continues to deteriorate, impacting on patient care. Vowing to ‘monitor progress’ and ‘determine’ the need for additional resources at a later date is simply shelving the problem.
“What needs to happen is an urgent overhaul of workforce planning to reduce the pressure on over-stretched GPs, doctors and nurses.
“It’s quite clear that Shona Robison is no longer up to the task and should step aside so that Lothian patients get the health service they deserve.”
Alan Roden – Page 23