Emergency Treatment (Waiting Times)

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 22nd September 2022.

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Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

As the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care said earlier this week, the most recent performance in accident and emergency is not good enough. I am very clear about the need for improvement. Of course, the most recent performance reflects the very significant pressure across health and social care arising from the two-year pandemic and from some pre-existing factors, such as our country’s changing demographics.

There is a sharp focus on doing what is required to improve that performance, which takes me to the specific question. In addition to what has been a 263 per cent increase in the number of accident and emergency consultants since this Government took office, we are investing more to support further recruitment, including overseas recruitment, and are taking action through the £50 million urgent and unscheduled care collaborative. That work includes a range of strands offering alternatives to hospital where those are appropriate, such as hospital at home; directing people, where appropriate, to better urgent care settings; and scheduling some urgent appointments to avoid long waits in accident and emergency. This week, the chief operating officer of the NHS wrote to health boards with five additional specific actions that we expect boards to take. We expect to see improvement and we want it to start to become visible immediately.

I will make one final point to put the issue into context, for the sake of those who are working so hard in our national health service. Our NHS is facing significant pressures, but the NHS in every part of the United Kingdom is doing so, too. Although performance needs to improve here in Scotland, our accident and emergency departments are performing better than those in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. For context—it is important to put it in context—in the last complete month for which we have figures, performance against the four-hour target in Scotland was 66.5 per cent, which is not good enough and needs to improve, but it compares with 57 per cent in England, 55.2 per cent in Wales and 45.7 per cent in Northern Ireland. The pressures exist everywhere and this Government is focused on ensuring that we support those in our health service to tackle them.