NHS Forth Valley “sorry” patients have experienced longer waits in A&E

A total of 141 people had to wait more than eight hours at the A&E department of Forth Valley Royal Hospital. Picture Michael Gillen.
A total of 141 people had to wait more than eight hours at the A&E department of Forth Valley Royal Hospital. Picture Michael Gillen.

NHS Forth Valley has apologised to patients attending the accident and emergency department at Forth Valley Royal Hospital after they had the longest waits in Scotland between Christmas and new year.

The latest figures for the seven days ending December 31 show that just 57.3 per cent of those patients attending NHS Forth Valley’s flagship A&E unit were seen and either admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours.

The figure is well below the Scottish Government’s 95 per cent target.

Of those attending the emergency department at the hospital in Larbert between Christmas and New Year, 141 people waited over eight hours and 35 waited more than 12 hours.

NHS Forth Valley said it had been dealing with a “significant” increase in the number of patients with flu and other respiratory illnesses in the last few weeks, among other factors.

Medical director Andrew Murray said: “We are sorry that a number of patients have experienced longer waits during this busy period and we are doing everything possible to reduce delays.

“All patients attending the emergency department are assessed and those with more urgent or serious health issues continue to be given priority.

“Many patients attending the emergency department will also undergo tests and start treatment while they wait to admitted or discharged.”

NHS Forth Valley may have the been the poorest performing board in the country, however NHS boards in Scotland as a whole recorded the worst performance against the government’s target since weekly reporting began in February 2015.

The Scottish figure showed only 78 per cent of patients were dealt with within the target time frame.

This compares to 92.5 per cent in the comparable week the previous year.

The figures come as departments face increased pressures due to an upsurge in flu cases and patients with complex care needs, with statistics showing flu rates in Scotland doubled in December.

The Scottish Ambulance Service reported an almost 40 per cent increase in the number of calls on Hogmanay alone while NHS 24 received more than 45,000 calls in the four days over Christmas.

Anyone eligible for the flu vaccine is being urged to take up the offer to help ease the strain on services.

Dr Dan Beckett, Scottish representative of the Society for Acute Medicine, said: “Falls and slips as a result of the icy weather and public holidays have put pressure on hospitals and A&E departments, however flu has had a significant additional impact on most acute medical units this winter.

“We are seeing numbers of patients requiring admission to hospital at a scale we haven’t seen for several years and patients who are frail, or have other medical conditions, are requiring several days in hospital before they are able to be discharged.

“While we do not want any delay to patient treatment, ensuring that patients with flu are admitted to, and cared for in the right place must always come first - the clinical needs of our patients is paramount.”

Health Secretary Shona Robison thanked both staff and patients across Scotland for their hard work and patience.

She said: “It will take some time for services to recover from the pressures being felt this winter and for the spikes in flu levels to subside.”