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Study shows ‘devastating’ reality of A&E overcrowding in Scotland

14 June 2024

New research has revealed the ‘devastating’ reality of overcrowding in Scottish A&Es as more than half are forced to treat people in corridors.

A survey, conducted by The Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) analysed data from 21 out of 29 anonymised Emergency Departments (EDs) in Scotland to capture a ‘snapshot’ of an average Monday night.

The study revealed patients were regularly treated on trolleys in corridors and many more were stuck waiting due to a lack of available beds.

The responses, recorded on four consecutive Mondays from March 25 until April 15, found on an average Monday night at 10pm:

  • 14 out of the 21 EDs reported that there were patients being treated in corridors
  • Of the 826 patients in attendance across 21 EDs in Scotland, 12.8% were being treated on trolleys in the corridor, a total of 106 people
  • 26.1% of patients were stuck in the ED waiting for an inpatient bed to become available, a total of 216 people
  • For every 100 patients with a cubicle, 82 more did not have access to one if needed. (Averaged from 16 EDs that provided this data.)
  • Only one ED had any free cubicles at the time. The average cubicle occupancy was 182% and the maximum for any one department was 258%.

Dr John-Paul Loughrey, RCEM’s Vice President for Scotland, said: “The image of more than 100 people – 100 grandparents, parents, children and friends, receiving treatment on trolleys in corridors across Scotland at once is truly heart-breaking. But these finding are unfortunately not surprising for anyone who has worked in or visited an A&E in Scotland in the last few years.

“Studies like this are one of the few ways that we can try to show the true scale of the issue to the public and those with the power to change the devastating reality: the reality of coming to work and treating people, many elderly and vulnerable, in inappropriate conditions such as corridors. It is undignified and unsafe and it needs to change.

Dr Adrian Boyle, President of RCEM added: “The effects of overcrowding, including queues of ambulances outside hospital and people being treated on trolleys due to a lack of space is not just an issue in Scotland, it is happening all over the UK.

“It is caused by an inability to discharge people who are ready to go home, as there aren’t appropriate social care options in place to do so safely.

“We will keep saying it until those in power do what they need to do to fix it – we need more staffed beds, improved staff retention and improved social care provisions so we can safely discharge people and therefore reduce waiting times. We will not stop calling for this change until it is made.”

The full survey results can be found here:
Scotland Crowding Study

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