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Long waiting times continue to put patient safety at serious risk

1 February 2022

The latest A&E activity and waiting times for major Emergency Departments in Scotland for December 2021 show:

  • 73.7% of attendances were seen and resulted in subsequent admission, transfer or discharge within four hours
  • There were 97,644 attendances, a 6% decrease when compared to the previous month, November 2021
  • More than one in four patients were delayed by four hours or more
  • 5,342 patients were delayed by eight hours or more, equal to 5.5% of all attendances
  • 1,605 patients were delayed by 12 hours or more

Responding to these figures, Dr John Thomson, Vice President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine Scotland, said:

“With fewer attendances performance has plateaued but be in no doubt that the health service and its staff in Scotland remain under unprecedented pressure and increasing burnout.

“One in four patients face delays over four hours, while both eight- and 12-hour waits are still at record high levels not seen before 2021. What is deeply concerning is the pattern and the potential for these long waiting times to become the status quo in perpetuity.

“Both our own report Crowding and its Consequences and a recent article in the Emergency Medicine Journal ‘Association between delays to patient admission from the emergency department and all-cause 30- day mortality’ detail the real harm, and in some cases death, that long waiting times can cause patients.

“The impact of this continued poor performance is distress and moral injury to staff and serious discomfort and risk to the safety of patients. This must be an urgent signal and call to action for system change. We have long called on the government to open 1,000 more beds in the system in Scotland, and to commit to publishing a long-term workforce plan. While there remains an urgent need to address the social care crisis to help patients be discharged from hospital in a timely way.

“Quite simply things cannot continue as they are, more patients will come to harm and staff will face increasing distress at the quality of care they are or, more significantly, aren’t able to provide. The government must recognise the severity of the situation and the risk that continued poor performance, long waiting times, patient harm, and sinking quality of care will continue to spiral.”

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