Emergency Treatment (Waiting Times)

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

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The First Minister:

As I said, we expect to see, and we are supporting what it will take to deliver, immediate improvements in accident and emergency waiting times. These are really serious issues, as the case that Douglas Ross has narrated illustrates—I would not say otherwise—but it does not do anybody any service at all to deliberately twist, and indeed misrepresent, what I said in my previous answer. It is really important to be clear here: I did not say that 84 hours was not good enough but better than anywhere else in the UK; I said that our four-hour performance was not good enough but was better than in other parts of the UK, and I said that about our longer-wait performance, too. I said that 84 hours is clearly unacceptable, but cases like that are exceptional, and it is important that, where such cases occur, they are properly looked into.

I turn to our performance against the 12-hour target. In the most recent week, which was very challenging, there was the lowest four-hour performance on record, and it is important to be clear about that. However, more than nine out of 10 patients—95.4 per cent of patients—were seen within the 12-hour target time. Clearly, exceptional cases should not happen. When they do, lessons should be learned. It is important, however, not to misrepresent the situation or to misrepresent what I have said.

On the action that we are taking, which is obviously what matters, I have referred to support for recruitment, and it is important to point out the 263 per cent increase in the number of A and E consultants. We are also investing £11 million to support further domestic and international recruitment. Of course, international recruitment has been made significantly harder because of Brexit—I just put that on record. A thousand healthcare support workers were brought in last winter. I have already referred to the £50 million of investment to examine alternatives to accident and emergency where they are more appropriate for patients.

We will continue to focus on improving performance. To end my answer where I started, we expect to see performance improve immediately.