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RCEM Scotland calls for urgent increase in bed numbers amid warning of ‘devastating winter’

7 November 2023

Latest data show that more than 4,000 patients faced 12-hour delays in Scottish A&Es as RCEM calls on the Scottish government to increase bed numbers and avoid ‘devastating winter’.

Monthly A&E performance figures for Scotland for September 2023 published by the Scottish government show:

  • In September 2023, there were 113,864 attendances at major A&Es in Scotland.
  • 50 % of patients were seen within four-hours at major A&Es (Type 1 EDs)
    • 38,114 (33.5%) patients waited over four-hours in major Emergency Departments, this is a 1.7% increase from the previous month and a 2.3% decrease from September 2022.
    • This is a decrease of 1.4 percentage points from the previous month.
    • The number waiting more than four-hours has increased by 145.5% compared with September 2019 (15,526).
  • 11,788 (10.4%) patients waited eight-hours or more in an Emergency Department
    • This is an increase of 1.1 percentage points from the previous month, and a 1.5 percentage point decrease compared with September 2022.
    • The number waiting more than eight-hours has increased by more than eight times (701%) compared with September 2019 (1471).
  • 4263 (3.7%) patients waited more than 12-hours before being seen, admitted, discharged, or transferred.
    • This figure has increased by 0.4 percentage points from the previous month. And has decreased by 1 percentage point compared with September 2022.
    • The number waiting more than 12-hours has increased by 14 times (1307%) compared with 2019 (303).
  • There were 1,811 beds occupied due to delayed discharges, the second most for any September on record.

Commenting on these data, RCEM Scotland Vice President, Dr John-Paul Loughrey said:

“As we head into winter, we expect many people to attend A&Es with a multitude of conditions and illnesses, and many of them will require admission to hospital for further care.

“It is vital that with this clear expectation comes the necessary winter planning to resource A&Es, and support both clinicians and their patients through the colder months.

“We are concerned that the Scottish government’s winter plan fell short of delivering what is needed ahead of what will likely be a difficult period for emergency care.

“We desperately need to see an increase in bed numbers. This will help to reduce the dangerously high levels of bed occupancy, reduce long and dangerous delays in A&Es, and help to ensure patients are admitted to a bed more promptly.

“We continue to engage with the Cabinet Secretary and his team in good faith and raise the concerns of our members.

“To avoid what could be a devastating winter, we again urge the Scottish government to heed our calls to adopt our priorities to #ResuscitateEmergencyCare.”

The data come as figures obtained through Freedom of Information requests revealed that nearly 4,000 people faced 24 hour waits in Scotland A&Es in the six months up to June this year, as Dr Loughrey said “24 hours in A&E belongs on TV, not in daily reality for patients and staff”.

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