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Emergency Departments in Scotland experience worst ever May performance

6 July 2021

The latest data released today by the Scottish Government for May 2021 show that attendances at Emergency Departments have risen significantly.

In May 2021 there were 112,563 attendances to major Emergency Departments across Scotland. This is a 12% increase compared to April 2021, a 24% increase when compared to March 2021, and a 45% increase compared to May 2020.

Following this increase, four-hour performance deteriorated, 86% of attendances to major Emergency Departments in Scotland were seen within four hours. 15,706 patients were delayed by four-hours or more in an Emergency Department, this is the highest figure since January 2020, and it is the highest figure ever recorded for the month of May. This means one in seven patients were delayed by four hours or more before being seen.

In May 2021, 393 patients spent 12 hours or more in an Emergency Department, this is double the figure for April 2021. This is the highest number of 12-hour delays for the month of May ever recorded, and it is more than double the previous highest May figure of 189 12-hour delays that was recorded in 2019.

Data also show that 1,680 patients spent eight hours or more in a major Emergency Department, this is an increase of nearly 50% compared to April 2021 and it is the highest figure ever recorded for the month of May.

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

“The data is deeply concerning and very much reflects what is happening on the ground. Departments are busier than ever, especially for the summer period with some record-breaking figures for the month of May, and it is becoming increasingly challenging.

“These figures come at a time when reports suggest Scotland has the highest covid infection rate in Europe. We are battling community admissions, elective care patients seeking treatment, as well as increasing covid patients attending our departments, all within the context of reduced bed-stock.

“Departments are filled with patients, some who may have covid, waiting to be seen. While long-stays alone can put patient safety at risk. This risk is increased as some patients could contract the disease in a busy Emergency Department.

“The College’s recent Emergency Medicine workforce census in Scotland revealed an Emergency Medicine workforce that was not adequately staffed to deliver the highest quality patient care in Emergency Departments in Scotland. We have shortages across the board, but particularly among consultants and senior decision-making clinicians. These shortages are currently exacerbated by the soaring covid infection rate, meaning there are a large number of absent NHS staff due to covid in Scotland.

“We are doing all we can to maintain flow and maximise patient safety, but the pressures are increasingly intense and are faced by the existing but short-staffed workforce that are facing continued burnout and exhaustion.

“The data show the growing demand for urgent and emergency care, Emergency Departments are where people turn to for treatment when there is nowhere else to go, so they must be adequately staffed with trained Emergency Medicine staff, properly funded, and equipped with enough capacity and resources to cope with severe demand.”

“We urgently need the Scottish Government to support the urgent and emergency care system to cope with these pressures.”


Notes to Editor

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