Scottish Tories call for Humza Yousaf to act on ‘woeful’ A&E waiting times

Scottish Tories call for Humza Yousaf to act on ‘woeful’ A&E waiting times
Tory health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane demanded action as the latest figures showed almost three out of 10 patients waited more than four hours.

Ministers are being  urged to tackle the “woeful” waiting times figures for Scotland’s accident and emergency departments, as new figures show almost three out of 10 patients waited longer than the target time in the final week of February.

In the week ending February 27, a total of 24,672 patients were seen at A&E – with 70.8% dealt with within four hours.

That is up from the 69.8% seen within the target time the previous week – but is well below the Scottish Government target of having 95% of patients either admitted, transferred or discharged within that time.

The latest weekly data from Public Health Scotland showed 1,609 patients spent more than eight hours in an A&E department in the week ending February 27 – with 538 patients having to wait 12 hours or longer.

In total, there were 7,203 patients who spent longer than four hours in A&E that week.

The Public Health Scotland report said that while there had been “large decreases” in the number of people seeking help at A&E during the spring of 2020 and and the winter of 2020-21 – when lockdowns were imposed to help curb the spread of coronavirus –  numbers have been rising since then and “are getting closer to the pre-Covid levels”.

It noted: “From the summer of 2021, performance against the four-hour standard has dropped below 80% and has remained at this rate for a prolonged period of time.”

Scottish Conservative health spokesman, Dr Sandesh Gulhane, said: “These woeful A&E waiting-time stats highlight how (Health Secretary) Humza Yousaf is letting down both the public and over-stretched NHS staff.

Health Secretary, Humza Yousaf was urged to tackle the ‘woeful’ waiting time figures. (Peter Summers/PA)
Health Secretary, Humza Yousaf was urged to tackle the ‘woeful’ waiting time figures. (Peter Summers/PA)

“This is quite literally a matter of life and death because we know excess delays to be seen lead to the avoidable deaths of patients.”

Dr Gulhane continued: “We’re well beyond the peak winter period and the peak of Covid-related staff absences, and yet still almost 30% of patients are waiting more than four hours to be seen.

“This can’t go on – and, yet, the silence from the Health Secretary on how he intends to tackle the problem is deafening.”

Scottish Labour health spokeswoman, Jackie Baillie, accused Mr Yousaf of being “missing in action”.

Hitting out at the figures, she said: “Another week, another clear sign that Humza Yousaf is failing as Scotland’s Health Secretary.

“Every week, hundreds of Scots are waiting over 12 hours to be seen at A&E despite the heroic efforts of staff.

“Frontline A&E staff have repeatedly called for help from the Health Secretary, but he has turned his back on them time and time again.”

Ms Baillie continued: “Every week, lives are being put in jeopardy and the Health Secretary is missing in action.

“We cannot allow crisis to be the new normal in Scotland’s A&E departments – Yousaf must act now before lives are lost.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “These figures show a small improvement in performance, despite rising attendances at our A&E departments.

“We know the situation will continue to fluctuate during the winter period, but Scotland continues to have the best performing A&Es in the UK. In fact, Scotland’s A&Es have outperformed those in England, Wales and Northern Ireland for over six years.

“NHS staff continue to face unprecedented pressures as they work to respond to the pandemic whilst continuing to provide vital treatment and optimal patient care.

“Weekly performance continues to be impacted by the direct and indirect impacts of the pandemic such as capacity issues as a result of staff absence and reduced beds due to infection control requirements.

“Hospitals continue to report high numbers of patients presenting who are acutely unwell leading to a longer length of time spent in hospital and impacting on flow. We continue to working closely with our Health Board colleagues and their partners and are monitoring the situation closely.”