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RCEM Scotland urgently calls for plan to fix workforce crisis

2 March 2021

Monthly A&E data published by the Scottish Government for January 2021 show that 84.8% of patients were seen within the four-hour target in major Emergency Departments across Scotland, representing a slight 0.5 percentage point increase in four-hour performance compared to January 2020.

85,768 patients attended major departments across Scotland in January 2021. Despite no real change in performance, this represents a 25% decrease in attendance compared to January 2020.

In January 2021, 1,990 patients waited eight hours or more and 599 patients waited 12 hours or more. These figures represent an improvement both compared to the previous month, December 2020, and the same month of the previous year, January 2020.

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

“January was a challenging month. Despite seeing the lowest attendances since April 2020, we had the lowest four-hour performance since January 2020 and 12-hour delays remained significantly high.

“However, the data is beginning to trend in the right direction. But we remain in a precarious position. As we return to pre-pandemic levels, we must remember that ‘normal’ pressures before were far from being normal.

“Departments have been crowded with patients experiencing long waits, with many being treated on trollies in corridors. Staff have been stretched thinly, and both 12-hour delays and ambulance handover delays have been regular occurrences – it is essential we do not allow these unsafe practices to continue to escalate and become routine as we exit the pandemic.

“To prevent these practices, we urgently need an updated workforce plan to fix the workforce crisis. The NHS in Scotland needs 70 additional Emergency Medicine consultants to get to safe staffing levels.

“This week the Chancellor of the Exchequer will present the budget. The Government has an opportunity to reverse the years of underfunding in Health and Social Care in Scotland, via the Barnett Formula, to provide investment and funding that will allow the NHS in Scotland to be adequately staffed and resourced.

“Funding could enable the numbers entering Emergency Medicine training to be increased as well as the number of medical school places to be doubled – the first steps to fixing the workforce crisis.

“Without any additional funding the NHS in Scotland will continue to be stretched, struggling to meet demand, and things will swiftly return to how they once were – full departments with too few staff.”

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