Reports over the weekend have unearthed worrying statistics on waiting times at the Royal Infirmary’s A&E department.
Under Scottish Government targets, 98% of patients should be admitted, discharged or transferred from an emergency department within four hours of arrival.
However, figures published in the Evening News show that over 2,200 patients missed this target during December and early January. Of these, 339 waited over eight hours, 66 waited over 12 hours and, on one occasion, a patient waited for almost 18 hours before being processed through the department. So far in January, more than one in five attendees at A&E has missed the target in the Lothians.
These are absolutely staggering figures that must act as a wake-up call to the Scottish Government. This is the latest example of what Health Secretary Alex Neil described as the Second Division healthcare service people in the Lothians are receiving.
The emergency department at the ERI is the busiest in Scotland but that cannot be used as an excuse. A great deal of planning goes into staffing at these facilities and with increasing attendances expected over the winter months additional resources should have been in place.
Unfortunately, I believe that these figures once again point to the fact that the health board simply doesn’t have the physical or human resources to meet demand. If the health secretary is serious about returning NHS Lothian to the Premier League of healthcare providers, there will need to be serious investment to address this shortfall.
At the same time, it is important that individuals only use A&E departments for genuine emergencies and that more minor complaints are directed towards NHS 24 or your G.P.
We need more beds in the ERI so that people are not waiting for hours for beds to become available.
But we also need more investment in services to get people the right support so they don’t end up in A&E when a more local service or for example better support for older people.