Fears have been raised over “life-threatening” delays at Paisley’s Royal Alexandra Hospital following a fresh slump in performance.
New figures released this week show patients are facing increasing waits for emergency treatment at the struggling site.
And MSP Neil Bibby, who has been fighting for knackered workers at the RAH for months, has branded the latest waiting times figures “beyond belief”.
It comes as nursing leaders sounded the alarm over fears for the increasing numbers of patients being treated in corridors and on trollies across Scotland.
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NHS data this week shows that just 52.8 per cent of the 1,052 patients who attended for emergency treatment at the Corsebar Road hospital were seen in line with four hour targets.
The Scottish Government demands 95 per cent of A&E patients are admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours – a target which has fallen by the wayside since the pandemic began.
But after a brief recovery in waiting times, which peaked just weeks ago at 61.9 per cent compliance with the four hour target have now dropped dramatically.
The latest figure has fallen below even last week’s low of 53 per cent to amongst the worst recorded.
Data shows the hospital’s lowest figure against compliance since current records began less than six years ago was 49.8 per against the target in the week ending March 13 this year but patient figures were higher at 1,112 attendances.
The slide in performance, as the Scottish Government insists that A&E departments in Scotland are outperforming those in the rest of the UK, has prompted fears that “it will soon be the norm” for patients to wait more than four hours for emergency treatment.
Figures for the RAH in the week ending July 10 show that 497 patients were left waiting more than four hours, while 189 were delayed for eight hours or more.
The site notched up waits of 12 hours or more for 62 of the patients who attended last week.
Paisley-based Labour MSP Neil Bibby has expressed concern over the waiting times increase, saying: “These figures are beyond belief. Every week now the number of people being seen at A&E within four hours slides.
“At this rate, it will soon be the norm for patients at the RAH to wait over four hours for emergency treatment.”
The West Scotland politician added: “These figures are already life-threatening and I am worried about their continued downward direction. At what point will the government actually decide to do something to stop this trend?
“I cannot thank the RAH staff enough. They continue to do all they can despite incompetence and inaction from the government. And my full sympathy is genuinely with those who need care but just aren’t getting it.
“This summer crisis for the NHS is unprecedented and is out of control because Humza Yousaf is showing time and time again that he is out of his depth.
“Something needs to change, and fast.”
Now Royal College of Nursing Scotland leaders have also warned that “severe” staff shortages are impacting patient care.
They published survey data showing that more than a quarter of nursing staff in hospitals across Scotland have said patients are being treated in an inappropriate setting, meaning their care is being compromised and even made unsafe.
More than 2,300 nursing staff responded to the RCN’s Last Shift Survey earlier this year, with 26 per cent of hospital workers reporting clinical care issues.
The number rose to 62 per cent for emergency care workers.
Some 45 per cent also said necessary care had been left undone due to a lack of time – a consequence of the large workforce shortages amongst nursing staff.
Colin Poolman, RCN Scotland Interim Director, said: “It’s scandalous that nursing staff have to treat patients in the corridors, waiting rooms and even in the back of ambulances outside of hospital entrances. This must not become a ‘new normal’ – it is putting patients at risk. Today’s emergency department statistics show that severe staffing shortages continue to have a serious impact on patient care.
“We’re in the situation largely because of the failure of Scottish Government to address the nursing workforce crisis, which has seen registered nurse vacancies reach a record high. Urgent action is needed to protect patient safety, address staff shortages and demonstrate that the nursing workforce is valued as a safety critical profession.
“It is a very simple choice. Ministers must invest properly in nursing – plan staffing based on the population’s need and demonstrate that staff are valued by awarding a fair pay rise.”
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde bosses, who have regularly pleaded with patients to avoid packed A&E departments in recent weeks, warning of “long waits”, say a surge in covid cases is at the root of recent problems.
A spokesman said: “With an increase in community transmission, Covid-19 is still very much with us. Our hospitals are near capacity, with large numbers of patients admitted to hospital – either as direct result of the virus, or admitted for another illness but having tested positive with no symptoms.
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“There has also been an increase in ward closures due to COVID-19. This is putting significant pressure on capacity and available bed numbers and is having a knock-on effect at our A&E Departments and assessment units.”
He added: “The rise in patient numbers and the logistical challenges this brings to our teams is being further compounded by the difficulties we face due to delayed discharges – a situation which we are working hard to resolve.
“An additional pressure, is the challenge Covid-19 infection is creating across our workforce, with some colleagues absent as a result of the virus.
“We are sorry if anyone experiences in a delay in being treated and we are reminding the public not to come to A&E unless suffering from a very urgent or life-threatening condition. Everyone else who thinks they need urgent medical attention should speak to their GP first, or, call NHS24 on 111.”
The Scottish Government defended their record on the healthcare crisis, saying: “We want people to get the right care in the right setting and for many A&E will not be the most suitable place for their healthcare need.
“People should consider whether their condition is an emergency such as a stroke, heart attack or major trauma before going to A&E.”
A spokesperson added: “Scotland continues to have the best performing A&Es in the UK, outperforming those in England, Wales and Northern Ireland for over six years.”
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