Fife’s stretched emergency department staff are dealing with record numbers of patients turning up to A&E.
More than 14,600 people were seen at the accident and emergency service at Victoria Hospital, Kirkcaldy, between March 1 and the middle of May this year.
That was 650 more patients than during the same period last year and roughly 1,000 more than in the 10-week period in 2017.
NHS Fife is now considering work to raise awareness of what A&E is for in a bid to persuade people whose conditions are not urgent or life-threatening to seek help elsewhere.
Health chiefs said it was too early to tell whether Scotland’s new GP contract, which allows family doctors to opt out of out-of-hours care, was affecting numbers.
Fife’s out-of-hours service has been centralised in Kirkcaldy between midnight and 8am for more than a year due to a lack of staff available to operate it safely.
While NHS Fife continued to meet the Scottish Government’s target that at least 95% of patients will wait fewer than four hours from arrival to admission, discharge or transfer over the course of 2018-19 as a whole, in February the figure was 89.1%.
This amounted to 563 breaches out of 5,153 attendances with one person waiting more than 12 hours.
The high number of people attending at A&E, along with pressure on hospital beds, has been blamed for the fall in performance.
A paper presented to the last NHS Fife board said: “There has been an increasing number of patients waiting longer than four hours for admission to the hospital, directly linked to hospital pressure in terms of bed capacity, an increase in respiratory infections, as well as the number of frail people being admitted to hospital.”
Deputy chief operating officer Andy Mackay said officers were also analysing data to find out why more people were going to the emergency department.
Chief executive Paul Hawkins added: “We are starting to see pressure on A&E right across the country.
“We need to do something about that. We need to work with the public to say what A&E is all about.”