Accident and Emergency Departments (Waiting Times)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 15th June 2022.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Dean Lockhart Dean Lockhart Conservative

7. To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to reduce waiting times at accident and emergency departments. (S6O-01221)

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

The Covid-19 pandemic continues to put pressure on hospitals and services. Despite that, more than two thirds of patients are being seen in our A and E departments within the four-hour target.

On 1 June, we launched our new urgent and unscheduled care collaborative for health boards, supported by £50 million, which will support the implementation of a range of measures to reduce A and E waiting times and improve the patient experience. The measures include offering alternatives to hospital, such as hospital at home; directing people to more appropriate urgent care settings; and, where it is clinically appropriate and safe to do so, scheduling urgent appointments to avoid long waits in A and E.

That new approach will capitalise on the positive work that is already under way, such as discharge without delay, virtual capacity and the redesign of urgent care.

Photo of Dean Lockhart Dean Lockhart Conservative

The most recent waiting times at Forth Valley royal hospital for accident and emergency and minor injuries show that more than 500 patients waited for more than eight hours and that 100 patients waited for more than 12 hours, despite staff working around the clock.

The cabinet secretary has outlined additional finance, but what practical and urgent steps, including the recruitment of additional staff, will he take to help Forth Valley royal hospital to address those wholly unacceptable waiting times?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

I agree with Dean Lockhart. We have regular discussions with NHS Forth Valley. The level of performance there is not acceptable and the management team knows that that is the case. As Dean Lockhart rightly said, along with clinical staff, the team is working hard around the clock to make improvements.

With regard to what we can practically do, a whole range of initiatives is under way, including at Forth Valley royal, and I am happy to write to Dean Lockhart in detail about them. I will give one example here, which is the hospital at home programme, which I referenced in my previous answer. We have recently increased our investment in that programme. Between September 2021 and February 2022, 4,500 people who would otherwise have been admitted to hospital were treated by hospital at home services. That equates to a saving of more than 26,000 bed days.

There is a range of initiatives, but, in the interests of brevity, I am happy to write to Dean Lockhart after this session with full details of all the interventions that are taking place and what we are doing to support Forth Valley royal hospital in particular.

Photo of Mercedes Villalba Mercedes Villalba Labour

I remind members of my entry in the register of members’ interests.

Scottish Ambulance Service workers play a vital role in supporting the delivery of patient care in our A and E departments, but Unite the union’s recent survey of those workers reveals that those departments are increasingly understaffed, that the staff are working longer shifts and facing greater abuse, and that many workers are contemplating leaving the Ambulance Service altogether. Will the Scottish Government begin immediate negotiations with Unite the union to explore the formal recognition of the Ambulance Service as an emergency service, with workers being employed on similar terms to those in the police and fire services?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

I have regular engagement with the trade unions that represent all those who work in the Scottish Ambulance Service, and I will continue that engagement.

Last year, we had a record year of recruitment of staff to the Scottish Ambulance Service, and one of my first acts as health secretary was to introduce the paramedic bursary, which is incredibly important for the future pipeline of Scottish Ambulance Service staff. We continue to invest in the Scottish Ambulance Service, but, on Mercedes Villalba’s specific point, I will take up further discussions with trade union colleagues.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I can take question 8 if I have succinct questions and answers.