Borders health chiefs blame longer A&E waiting times on 8% rise in patients

Health chiefs in the Borders are blaiming what have been slammed as their worst emergency department figures since records began on a surge in the number of casualty cases.

Thursday, 16th January 2020, 8:54 am
The Borders General Hospital at Melrose.

Figures for November published by NHS Scotland’s information services division reveal that of the 2,790 patients seen at the accident-and-emergency department at the Borders General Hospital in Melrose, only 85.6% were admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours.

Some 31 of those patients spent more than 12 hours in A&E, latest statistics show.

Across Scotland, almost 1,000 patients waited longer than 12 hours in A&E, up from 657 the month before.

Bosses at NHS Borders are blaming that decline in performance on much-increased demand, but Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP Rachael Hamilton is pointing the finger at the Scottish Government instead.

She said: “The Scottish National Party government have been in charge of the Scottish NHS for over a decade now, and these figures are inexcusable.

“It is a shocking record and the health secretary, Jeane Freeman, should be appalled.

“Doctors, nurses and front-line NHS staff are working flat out to care for those who arrive at A&E, yet the SNP continue to underfund and mismanage NHS budgets.

“People expect to be seen within a reasonable timeframe, but the figures show people are waiting over 12 hours, and this is simply unacceptable.

“The SNP need to stop their obsession with independence and get back to the things that really matter, saving our NHS and ensuring it is sustainably funded for the future.”

Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale MSP Christine Grahame agrees that there is room for improvement, saying: “I absolutely understand the frustration of those spending extending periods of time waiting in A&E, and clearly this is something NHS Borders needs to work to address.

“However, it’s barefaced cheek for the Tories, of all people, to be pinning the blame on the SNP’s referendum proposals.

“Let’s not forget Scotland continues to have the best hospitals in the UK, and I’d like to put on record my thanks to the hard-working staff who help make that the case.

“Indeed, if you cast your eyes south of the border, you’ll see the Tory-run NHS England with the worst performing A&Es in the UK, where desperate folk await treatment for hours in corridors on trolleys and ambulances queue up outside, perhaps because of the Tories’ years-long obsession with Brexit at the expense of domestic issues, not to mention the fact that, unlike in Scotland, where the SNP abolished prescription charges, the Tories continue to charge £9 per prescription to patients in NHS England.

“Frankly, based on what the Tories’ vision for the NHS looks like in England, I don’t think Borderers would want them anywhere near our NHS.”

NHS Borders says that it’s the sheer quantity of patients turning up at A&E that is leading to longer waiting times, however.

The 2,790 patients dealt with by the hospital’s A&E team in November was 212 up year on year, an 8.2% increase, it points out.

It is also urging patients only to go to A&E if that is the most appropriate source of advice or treatment.

Emergency department consultant Colm McCarthy said: “We continue to treat some very sick people. However, there have been instances where people could have sought more appropriate care.

“The three things that I would say are – one, is the emergency department the most appropriate place for you to come? Remember, the emergency department is for life-threatening illnesses and injuries only.

“Two, think about when you are attending. If you have nursed an injury for a couple of days and you feel that it needs to be seen, try to attend during office hours when there are minor injury nurses available to see you, rather than the middle of the night, which is really only staffed for life-threatening injuries and illnesses that just cannot wait.

“And three, if you do deem the department the most appropriate place to attend, please be patient with the staff.

“You will be triaged on arrival and you will be seen in terms of clinical priority, not in terms of arrival time, and that means that sometimes you will be waiting longer than you would at other times of the year.”