As COVID restrictions ease, emergency department attendances across Scotland are beginning to return to pre-pandemic levels with NHS Tayside outperforming the national average for waiting times.
This comes as the Scottish Government released data up to March 2021, indicating that 87.5% of Emergency Department attendances across Scotland were seen within four hours, compared to NHS Tayside’s 95%.
Consultant and Clinical Lead for Emergency Medicine Dr Julie Ronald, said:
“Attendances at A&E services have reduced across Tayside in the past year due to the measures put in place to respond to COVID-19, however we want to reassure our patients that we are still here to help if they require urgent care, and it is safe to attend our A&E departments. Please remember that it if it was urgent before COVID, it’s still urgent now.
“We have experienced a steady increase in patient attendance rates from late March onwards after lockdown restrictions started to ease.
“NHS Tayside has continued to achieve the Scottish Government’s four-hour waiting time target of 95% since January 2021 and has been the top performing territorial Board in Scotland for many years.
“Staff in our Accident and Emergency (A&E) departments work hard to see patients as quickly as possible, sometimes in very difficult circumstances.
“We have developed a service that relies on the availability of senior doctors and nurses so that they can become involved in clinical decisions at an early stage to minimise delays and maintain a high-quality service.
“It is important to remember that the way people access A&E services has changed to ensure everyone gets the right care, in the right place.
“A&E departments are open for those who have a life-threatening emergency. However, to ensure patients have the fastest access to the treatment the need, anyone with a non-life-threatening condition who would usually go to A&E should now call NHS 24 on 111 first to be directed to the right NHS service.
“If A&E is the most appropriate place to provide the right care, patients will either be directly refereed to A&E by NHS 24 or a telephone or video consultation with a senior clinical decision maker.”
In comparing this year’s attendances to last year, the data shows that in March 2021, 315 patients spent 12 hours or more in an emergency department across Scotland. This is down by over a quarter compared to March 2020.
The Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) is the single authoritative body for Emergency Medicine in the UK. Emergency Medicine is the specialty which provides doctors and consultants to A&E departments in the NHS in the UK and other healthcare systems around the world.
Vice President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, Dr John Thomson, said:
“We are beginning to reach pre-pandemic levels of hospital activity and demand for urgent and emergency care services. We fear a return of the pre-pandemic crowding that put patient safety at risk.
“The health service is in recovery, elective care waiting lists are growing, attendances at Emergency Departments are increasing, and the already depleted workforce is exhausted.
“As a result, some hospitals are beginning to face pressures with patients delayed for hours. We must rapidly assess and address our resources, capacity, and the way we deliver care.
“There are threats of a further wave of covid in the late summer and a potentially gruelling winter with seasonal flu in the community. We saw how the NHS in Scotland was underprepared and under-resourced for the pandemic and the brutal winter which followed, now we have a chance to learn and do what we can to ready ourselves for the next phase.
“Staff are exhausted after a difficult year and are facing new challenges on every front, by preparing now and ensuring that departments are ready for this next phase, we may be able to manage demand and cope with system pressures.”