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Prepare Emergency Departments now for the next phase of challenges, RCEM Scotland says

4 May 2021

The latest data released today by the Scottish Government for March 2021 show that attendances at Emergency Departments are beginning to return to pre-pandemic levels. In March 2021 there were 90,833 attendances to major Emergency Departments across Scotland. This is a 30% increase compared to February 2021 and a 7% increase when compared to March 2020.

Despite this increase, 87.5% of attendances to major Emergency Departments in Scotland were seen within 4 hours, meaning one in eight patients are waiting for four hours or more. Although, this represents an increase of 1.6 percentage points compared to February 2021.

In March 2021, 315 patients spent 12 hours or more in an Emergency Department, this is down by one third compared to February 2021 and down by over one quarter compared to March 2020.

Data also show that 1,358 patients spent eight hours or more in a major Emergency Department, this is down by over 22% compared to the previous month and down six percentage points on the previous year.

Dr John Thomson, Vice President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine Scotland, said:

“We are beginning to reach pre-pandemic levels of hospital activity and demand for urgent and emergency care services. We fear a return of the pre-pandemic crowding that put patient safety at risk.

“The health service is in recovery, elective care waiting lists are growing, attendances at Emergency Departments are increasing, and the already depleted workforce is exhausted.

“As a result, some hospitals are beginning to face pressures with patients delayed for hours. We must rapidly assess and address our resources, capacity, and the way we deliver care.

“The College launched its campaign Summer to Recover: Winter Proofing the Urgent and Emergency Care system for 2021 which presents a series of actions the Scottish Government, NHS Boards and ED Leadership Teams can take to prepare their departments for the challenges ahead.

“There are threats of a further wave of covid in the late summer and a potentially gruelling winter with seasonal flu in the community. We saw how the NHS in Scotland was underprepared and under-resourced for the pandemic and the brutal winter which followed, now we have a chance to learn and do what we can to ready ourselves for the next phase.

“Staff are exhausted after a difficult year and are facing new challenges on every front, by preparing now and ensuring that departments are ready for this next phase, we may be able to manage demand and cope with system pressures.”


Notes to Editor

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