Edinburgh Royal Infirmary A&E department 'overloaded' as NHS Lothian chiefs apologise for patients' long waits

Patients faced long waits amid reports A&E 'overloaded'Patients faced long waits amid reports A&E 'overloaded'
Patients faced long waits amid reports A&E 'overloaded'
Patients faced ‘lengthy’ waits for emergency care at Royal Infirmary’s full A&E, while several ambulances queued outside

Health chiefs have issued an apology to patients who were forced to wait for hours at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary’s A&E department, after reports that the emergency room was ‘overloaded’.

Patients in the Capital have been urged not to attend A&E unless their condition is life-threatening, with health bosses citing ‘unprecedented and prolonged levels of demand’ on services. Dozens packed into the full emergency department this week and were forced to wait hours to be seen by a triage nurse. A backlog also saw up to five ambulances queued outside.

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It comes amid claims that severe pressure on emergency room sees paramedics 'reluctant’ to take patients to A&E.

A staff nurse at the ERI told the Evening News: "We are doing our best but we are overloaded and have to give priority to critical care so others end up waiting long periods. We only have 36 beds here. I've seen patients waiting many hours, more than a day. We have blocked beds on wards with people ready to go home but families can’t get the social care needed at home. It’s been a struggle for many months with staffing and resources. Our capacity is stretched on a regular basis to the point the waiting room is full. People could already have waited hours for the ambulance by that point.”

Jacquie Campbell, chief officer of acute services at NHS Lothian, said: “The Emergency Department in the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh is the busiest in Scotland and our services are continuing to experience unprecedented and prolonged levels of demand as well as acuity. We apologise to patients who have been affected by lengthy waits and I would reassure them that all our teams are working tirelessly to ensure that we prioritise the most clinically urgent patients by managing our resources and staff to improve flexibility and support patient flow.“We urge everyone to get the right care in the right place and only visit A&E or call 999 in a critical emergency. It is important to remember that there is self-care information on NHS Inform, and that local pharmacies, GPs, dental practices or opticians may be a more appropriate route to treatment and care. If you have a minor injury or need urgent care, which is not a critical emergency, please call 111 to be referred to the right service and allocated an appointment if appropriate.”

But Lothian MSP Miles Briggs has branded the reports 'totally unacceptable' and called for a major review into staffing and resources at the city’s biggest hospital.

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Mr Briggs said: “These reports of patients not being admitted because A&E is full to capacity is totally unacceptable. Patients are not getting the service they need. For some time we’ve seen significant pressures here in Edinburgh. Delayed discharge is still a massive problem creating blocks in available beds and GP services are still struggling, adding to the demand. I’ve talked to paramedics reluctant to admit patients because of overload and that has become a core management issue for them. It’s chaos.”

"It’s got to a point where it’s almost life or death cases only. We can’t blame the health board because they are chronically under funded. But a full and proper review must be carried out now. Questions must be answered urgently about why this unprecedented pressure has persisted so long, particularly since we didn’t see a bad winter. I’m calling on politicians from all parties in Edinburgh and Lothians to demand the Scottish Government increase the budget for NHS Lothian to help them afford real solutions.”

Edinburgh Royal Infirmary has the second worst accident and emergency waiting times in the country, and is one of only two still treating less than half of patients within four hours. New figures released this week show 45.2 per cent of patients who went to the A&E department at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh were seen within the four-hour target time.

Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP has called for an urgent inquiry into the hundreds of avoidable deaths linked to the emergency care crisis and for a staff burnout prevention strategy.

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