Scotland’s poor health figures getting worse - Sue Webber

A year ago this week the closure of Drumbrae and Ferryfield House care homes was confirmed to much dismay. Now, as winter looms and NHS Lothian reaches breaking point, Drumbrae is to be reactivated to meet the growing beds crisis.

Lothian Tory MSP Sue Webber
Lothian Tory MSP Sue Webber

The staggering 84 hours spent by one patient in accident and emergency in Ayrshire this year is just the most graphic example of daily reality in Scotland’s hospitals, with patients often stuck for days in A&E because of the lack of places for their treatment.

Two weeks ago, nearly 1000 patients waited longer than 12 hours in Scottish emergency units and throughout August there was not a single hour when Edinburgh Royal Infirmary’s A&E was not over-capacity, on one day hitting 260 per cent more than its supposed limit. Over at the Western General, its small accident facility reached 300 per cent over capacity.

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NHS Scotland’s statistics are depressing. At the end of June 451,020 patients were waiting for an outpatient appointment and 157,289 were waiting for tests. 139,584 were waiting for an inpatient appointment, and 10,066 of them have been in the queue for more than two years, an eight-fold increase in a year.

And now it appears the NHS Inform waiting time information is unreliable, with the delay in Lothian 14 weeks longer than the official figures claim.

In July, an average of 1,806 beds a day were occupied by patients whose discharge was delayed, mainly waiting for care packages, with an average of 52 days in hospital after they were fit to leave.

As well as investing in new treatments which don’t need long hospital stays, the need to fix the mess in social care has never been more urgent, yet the Scottish Government is blowing £1.3bn on establishing a centralised, bureaucratic National Care Service which will change nothing, while local authorities dealing with the crisis are starved of cash.

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The replacement of scattered, old buildings would improve efficiency and generate badly-needed investment funds, but out-of-date hospitals like Liberton and St Michael’s in Linlithgow must stay open because there’s no alternative.

West Lothian consultant Dr Maria Corretge explained the situation to The Herald newspaper last weekend; “We’ve reached crisis point,” she said. “Waiting times for cancer and elective procedures are scandalous. Treatment for stroke is substandard. We’re letting down the most vulnerable.”

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A geriatric specialist who moved from Spain 20 years ago, Dr Corretge says conditions are far worse than when she first arrived and is stinging in her criticism of the SNP’s “vacuous” health policies and health secretary Humza Yousaf in whom she has “zero” trust.

“Waiting times for cancer are longer in Scotland than England, waiting times for some orthopaedic procedures are longer too. Then there’s the drug death scandal – we do so poorly compared to England, and they’re not great.”

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A new clot retrieval procedure which prevents severe strokes is commonplace in England, but not widely available in Scotland because, she says, there aren’t enough radiologists. “I always say, ‘if you’ve a stroke in the Borders, go south’.”

Dr Corretge might be pulled up by an NHS Scotland goon for her remarks, but when consultants actively encourage critically ill patients to leave Scotland for better treatment, the serious words should be with Humza Yousaf.

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Sue Webber is a Scottish Conservative MSP for the Lothians