Scotland politics

A&E waiting time targets missed in January, NHS figures show

Ambulances wait outside an emergency department

Scotland's A&E departments treated 87% of people within the Scottish government's target of four hours in January, NHS statistics show.

For the first time, weekly waiting times in Scottish A&E's have also been published.

They cover major hospitals only and suggest 86% of people were treated in four hours between 16 and 22 February.

The Scottish government target is 95%. This winter has been one of the worst for Scottish A&E's in recent years.

Only the weekly figures can be compared with those produced in England, where 88% of people were seen in four hours during the same week of 16 to 22 February.

'Particular strain'

The figures show there have been record levels of admissions to A&E, particularly in the west of Scotland during the winter months. Flu cases have risen significantly.

Health Secretary Shona Robison said more needed to be done to tackle the issues facing the NHS, and said the Scottish government was committed to improving performance throughout the whole system.

She said: "While weekly figures show 10 out of 14 health boards are treating around nine out of 10 A&E patients within four hours we are seeing particular strain on hospitals in the west, with NHS Ayrshire & Arran and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde falling below the national average for both weekly and monthly figures.

"To tackle this we are targeting £5m from our £31.5m performance fund to drive forward improvement across NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde, to relieve pressure at the front door of the hospital.

"This is in addition to the support team put into the Royal Alexandra Hospital, which is now using its learning across the health board."

In January, the Scottish government announced £100m to help health boards and local authorities tackle bed blocking which it is hoped would help people move out of A&E and through the system.

Ms Robison added: "I am determined to work with all health boards across the country to improve performance and ensure waits are brought down for patients. Our targets are the most challenging in the UK but it means we need to work even harder to meet them."

'A&E in crisis'

Jenny Marra, health spokeswoman for Scottish Labour, said the figures showed the Scottish people were being let down.

"Today's figures show that A&E is in crisis under the SNP," she said.

"The SNP government in Edinburgh are letting down patients across Scotland, but they are also letting down NHS staff who have dedicated their careers to saving lives and caring for others.

"They are not getting the support they need from the SNP. Our NHS deserves so much better than this."

Other NHS statistics released on Tuesday show:

- "Bed blocking" or delayed discharges has risen slightly. During the quarter October to December 2014, 168,526 bed days were occupied by delayed discharge patients. This compares with 134,978 during October to December 2013

- NHS Scotland staffing has seen an increase of 1.5% since 31 December 2013

- There has been a fall in the number of emergency hospital admissions caused by assaults. In the year 2013-14, 589 people were admitted to hospital, a drop of 53% in six years. Almost a third of cases were handled by hospitals in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board area

- Children from the most deprived backgrounds are more than four times likely to be taken to hospital following a road traffic accident than those in the most affluent families. In 2013-14, of all children admitted to hospital A&E departments, a third (112) were in the highest level of deprivation

- More people are surviving cancer. On average, survival increased by approximately 19 percentage points in males and by approximately 14 percentage points in females in an analysis of two five-year periods, 1987-91 and 2007-11.

Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesman Jim Hume said the government should make clear how they plan to tackle the problems in the NHS.

He said: "These figures show SNP ministers have taken their eye off the ball, with far too many people not being seen within the target treatment time.

"The crisis facing A&E units couldn't be more apparent - now NHS staff and patients need to know what the SNP is going to do to fix it."

Image caption An articulated lorry was converted into a mobile "drunk tank" and used in Bristol over the festive season.

Recovery centres

The Scottish Conservatives have called for the establishment of recovery centres, where police and ambulance staff could refer those heavily under the influence of alcohol, which they said would reduce the demands on A&E.

They said the plan would not mean that people with injuries or in genuine need, who happened to also be drunk, would be diverted away from A&E.

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: "Recovery centres are up-and-running in America and Australia.

"However, in Scotland we have not seen any real national effort to deal with this increasing problem which now regularly overwhelms casualty [departments].

"When they're already at breaking point, experienced and specialist A&E doctors and nurses shouldn't be expected to simply clean up after someone who has drunk 10 pints on Saturday night and can't find their way home."

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