Number of Borders A&E patients kept waiting over four hours up 11% on last year

The Borders General Hospital at Melrose.
The Borders General Hospital at Melrose.

Increasing numbers of patients are being kept waiting over four hours to be tended to at the casualty department at the Borders General Hospital, latest figures reveal.

Only 85.2% of patients at the Melrose hospital’s accident-and-emergency unit are seen within four hours of arriving, nearly 10% short of the Scottish Government target of 95%.

It’s also almost 11% below the 95.8% rate achieved by NHS Borders a year ago, that being the last time the trust hit the target set by ministers.

The number of patients admitted, transferred or discharged within eight hours is down too but only by a fraction, from 99.8% to 99.7%.

That increase in waiting times has comes alongside a rise number of people attending the A&E unit, up by 14% from 576 in the week ending July 23, 2017, to 657 in the equivalent week this year.

Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP Rachael Hamilton is concerned by that rise in waiting times and is calling on Holyrood health secretary Jeane Freeman to take action to tackle it:

“NHS Borders A&E waiting times are too long and are showing little sign of improvement,” she said.

“We call on ministers to do more to support our hard-working NHS staff and improve waiting times for patients. The increased pressure on A&E services has to be addressed, and ministers need to acknowledge that the current GP crisis is making things worse.”

South Scotland Conservative list MSP Michelle Ballantyne, a former nurse, agrees, saying: “These figures demonstrate an alarming trend.

“The fact that the number of people being seen within the Government’s target has fallen by 10% in the Borders and 4% across Scotland further highlights the strain on our NHS and the hard-working doctors, nurses and support staff within our health service.

“Almost 100 people across the Scottish Borders have had to wait longer than four hours at our accident-and-emergency centres. That’s up from 24 people last year.

“The figures for NHS Borders show the second worst decline in Scotland compared to last year, and it is clear that something has to be done about this.

“These figures have surely been fuelled by our lack of GPs. Ministers ought to recognise how the GP crisis has manifested itself across NHS Borders. I hope that Jeane Freeman will treat this as a priority.”

An NHS Borders spokespaerson said: “We are caring for a high number of sick people who cannot leave hospital until they are well enough.

“When the numbers are so high within the hospital, it can take longer for us to see new patients arriving at our emergency department.

“This is not what we would wish for people in the Borders, and we are sorry for those people who have had to wait too long.

“We work very hard to see people in a timely manner, and over the past year we have managed to see an average of 93 out of 100 patients within the national four-hour waiting time target.

“Our staff continue to work tirelessly, and we rely on their dedication.

“We would ask that the public continue to help us and help themselves by using their local community pharmacy, minor injuries units and self-care, as well as ringing NHS 24 on 111 for advice.”