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New First Minister must address A&E ‘danger zone’

Tuesday 7 May 2024

A&Es in Scotland are under “constant strain” amid extended wait times and delays to patient discharge.

This is the response from The Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) as new Scottish National Party leader John Swinney lists the NHS as being among his “focus” points in power.

RCEM has called for the incoming First Minister, which is expected to be Mr Swinney as the only candidate, to address hospital discharge delays and extended A&E wait times.

Monthly performance data released today by Public Health Scotland reveals the true scale of the challenge, with the number of people waiting twelve hours or more at A&Es in Scotland having grown by 6260% since 2017.

The data, which covers March, shows slight improvement since February. However, it was the worst March since records began in 2011 for patients being seen within four hours of arriving at A&E.

In March, one in three people attending Scottish Emergency Departments waited four hours or more to be seen, one in eight waited eight hours or more, and one in 20 waited 12 hours or more.

There was a total of 58,646 days spent in hospital by people who were well enough to be discharged, but unable to leave due to inadequate social care.

Dr JP Loughrey, The Royal College of Emergency Medicine’s Vice President for Scotland said: “The constant strain on staff and patients is causing an immense amount of damage. They are stuck in the danger zone of a long-wait pressure gauge without enough support to relieve this alarming situation.

“Any modest improvements on February’s figures are not enough. Scotland’s new First Minister must commit to bringing about positive change by putting the nation’s healthcare at the top of their priorities.

“The College’s campaign to #ResuscitateEmergencyCare and its 2024 Manifesto recommendations can support the Scottish Government and other key policy makers in making tangible changes to help improve the dire situation we are in.

“Delays to patients discharge from hospital is one key area to improve upon as this blocker mean Emergency Department doctors cannot admit patients, causing unacceptably long waits that are continually getting worse.

“Delays in ambulance handovers, hospital discharges and a lack of social care provisions continue to take a toll on hardworking staff who are at their limit.

Dr Loughrey added: “The College would like to congratulate John Swinney on his appointment as SNP leader. We look forward to working together to improve Emergency Care in Scotland.”

A graphic illustration of the data can be found here. The full data set can be found here.

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