Some 13 people had to put up with an excruciating wait of over 12 hours for treatment at the Borders General Hospital’s accident and emergency department over the festive period.
The latest A&E statistics from NHS Scotland’s information services division show that while NHS Borders staff battled gamely against high demand associated with the annual winter crisis, such waiting times were above what the local health authority had hoped for.
Before Christmas, Borderers had been urged to only attend the accident and emergency department at the 328-bed Melrose hospital in an emergency.
However, the department was still put under exceptional pressure, and that, alongside a shortage of beds in its main wards, led to waiting times going up.
Those seen within four hours in the week ending December 31 was recorded at 82.7%, the target being 95%.
Also, 18 people had to wait over eight hours, while 13 people had to wait over 12 hours.
The three categories recorded their worst results of 2017.
This week, the local health authority apologised to those patients left waiting.
Cliff Sharp, medical director at NHS Borders, told the Southern: “We’ve had 10% more emergency department attendances compared to last year, with a 20% increase in the week before Christmas.
“Unfortunately, we have been very short of beds for people, in addition to more admissions.
“We have a very high number of people delayed in the health system, and we are working with the health and social care partnership to alleviate the pressure on the system and for those individual people.
“Our waiting times at the emergency department have therefore been longer than we would wish and not what we want for people in the Borders.
“We are very sorry for those people who have been very sick who have had to wait for too long to move into a main ward bed.
“Staff have been tremendous in the emergency department, the wards and right across the general hospital, and we rely on the wonderful work and commitment from community staff and GPs to keep the hospital available to care for the sickest people.
“The public have been really helpful, and we would ask that they continue to help us and help themselves by using their local community pharmacy, minor injuries units, open 24 hours a day, and self- care, as well as ringing NHS 24 on 111 for advice.
“GP surgeries have also been very busy across our communities, seeing both emergency patients and those attending for routine appointments, and they too are working very hard to meet peoples’ needs.”
Borders MSP Rachael Hamilton also praised the work of the hospital staff, saying: “It cannot be overstated the fantastic work our NHS staff do for us in difficult conditions, and once again I thank them for working extra hours over the festive period to ensure patients have the best care possible.
“These latest statistics highlight that the Borders was not immune from the NHS winter crisis that hit Scotland over the Christmas period.
“The Scottish Government needs to take urgent action to make sure NHS Borders is adequately supported to help meet its targets and help care for its patients.”