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Matheson admits A&E waiting times are ‘longer than we want them to be’

More than a third of patients in A&E spent longer than the target time of four hours there, the latest figures show (Chris Radburn/PA)
More than a third of patients in A&E spent longer than the target time of four hours there, the latest figures show (Chris Radburn/PA)

Health Secretary Michael Matheson has conceded waiting times are “longer than we want them to be” as new figures showed more than a third of patients spent longer than four hours in accident and emergency.

The latest weekly figures from Scotland’s A&E departments showed that of the 22,975 people who sought help in week ending January 14, 64.3% were seen and either admitted, transferred or discharged within the target time.

That figure is up from the previous week, when just 59.3% were dealt with within four hours.

But performance in A&E continues to be well below the Scottish Government target of having 95% of patients admitted, transferred or discharged within the four-hour target.

Health Secretary Michael Matheson admitted A&E departments were under ‘sustained pressure’ (Jane Barlow/PA)

Public Health Scotland’s data showed that in the week ending January 14, a total of 8,210 patients spent more than four hours in A&E.

That includes 3,237 who were there for longer than eight hours, and 1,668 who were there for 12 hours or more – with these totals amounting to 14.1% and 7.3% of all patients respectively.

And, in the flagship Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow, just 41.7% of patients in A&E were admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours.

The Health Secretary said that emergency departments were “under sustained pressure” during the peak winter period.

He stated: “We recognise the system remains under sustained pressure, and waiting times are longer than we want them to be for some patients.

“Our emergency departments are continuing to deal with the winter peak with similar demand being felt throughout the UK.

“Increased seasonal illness including Covid, flu and norovirus, and high levels of occupancy and delayed discharge are all contributing to increased pressure on services.”

Mr Matheson added: “To tackle hospital bed occupancy our delayed discharge and hospital occupancy action plan is being implemented at pace, delivering actions we know work to reduce delay, including early planning, deployment of multi-agency teams and involvement of the patient, their family and carers.”

But Scottish Conservative health spokesperson Dr Sandesh Gulhane said: “It is completely unacceptable that more than one in three A&E patients are still not being seen within the SNP Government’s target.

“The failure, for years, to meet this target matters because we know that excess waits in emergency departments lead tragically to avoidable deaths.

“The buck for this stops not with our dedicated NHS staff, but with the dire workforce planning of successive SNP health secretaries which has left them dangerously under-resourced.”