NHS Forth Valley: Chief apologises as Forth Valley Royal patients wait over 12 hours for treatment

The chief executive of NHS Forth Valley has apologised for the hospital’s poor performance as it failed once again to hit targets for getting people treated by it’s emergency department.

By Kirsty Paterson, Local Democracy Reporter
Wednesday, 1st June 2022, 12:36 pm

Latest figures revealed that in April more than 90 people had to wait over 12 hours to be treated in the hospital’s emergency department and its Minor Injuries unit, while more than 500 had a wait of over eight hours.

At a meeting of NHS Forth Valley board, Cathie Cowan said: “I want to apologise to the people of Forth Valley for the delays being experienced within unscheduled care services, notably on the Forth Valley Royal Hospital site.”

She also acknowledged that the hospital was still using treatment rooms and putting five beds in a four-bedded area to cope with the numbers in hospital.

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Cathie Cowan, NHS Forth Valley chief executive, apologised for the lengthy A&E waits at Forth Valley Royal Hospital

She said: “That is not where we want to be but it demonstrates the pressures that we are currently facing.”

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Forth Valley hospital continues to fall well short of the national standard which aims for 95 per cent of patients to be discharged or admitted within four hours.

One particular issue the NHS is also seeing is surges in attendances at the Emergency Department particularly in the early evening with many people self-presenting at ED after 6pm which can also contribute to longer waits.

Cathie Cowan, Chief Executive NHS Forth Valley. Picture: Michael Gillen

Last week, Forth Valley A&E met the target just 45 per cent of the time although to date for the month of May they are sitting at just under 54 per cent, almost unchanged from April’s 53 per cent.

The report stated that in April a total of 2313 patients waited longer than the four-hour target across both the ED and Minor Injuries Unit (MIU); with 512 waits longer than eight hours and 93 waits longer than 12 hours.

Speaking after the meeting, Ms Cowan said: “The last few months have continued to be exceptionally challenging, and I’d like to thank local staff working across primary, community and hospital services for their ongoing efforts to deliver vital services in these very difficult circumstances.

“I’d also like to thank local patients for their patience and understanding as we work hard to tackle pressures across the wider health and care system and reduce the high numbers of patients currently experiencing delays in being discharged from local hospitals.

“This is critical to improve our performance against the national 4-hour access standard by ensuring we have the capacity to quickly admit people who require inpatient care and prevent patients having to wait for long periods of time in our Emergency Department for a bed to become available.

“We are committed to working with our Health and Social Care partners to increase care at home support and provide more alternatives to hospital admission. This has included significant investment in our Hospital at Home service and the recent recruitment of additional ED Consultants, Emergency Nurse Practitioners, Advanced Nurse Practitioners, GPs and clinical nurse advisers to increase clinical capacity and support across our Emergency and GP Out-of-Hours services.”

Her report was part of a regular update into how local health services are recovering from the effects of the pandemic and, once again, the Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) performance came under the spotlight.

The report showed that in April 54.5 per cent of patients started treatment within 18 weeks of referral – a significant drop from March’s figure of 73.7 per cent. This prompted the health board’s chair, Janie McCusker, to ask for an explanation.

Ms Cowan said: “That is due to us deliberately targeting the children and young people who have got long waits.

“You will see that trajectory get into that swing back up as we tackle those long waits and are able to deal with the new referrals coming through. We are sitting with 130 children who are in that long wait category – it was as high as 252 in January of this year, so we expected that drop.

“It would great if we could do both but actually we’ve got gaps and we’ve tried to recruit to those vacancies.”

There was much better news in scheduled care, where they have invested in new, permanent posts which are helping reduce the numbers waiting for day surgery.