FEARS about the safety of patients in Scotland's largest health board have been raised by nurses as hospitals continue to struggle with demand.


The Royal College of Nursing Scotland called an emergency meeting with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde after a number of staff rang them with serious concerns.

The health board has opened extra beds to help cope with the "intense" pressure on wards, but it is understood the nurses were concerned about staff being spread too thinly to look after the patients properly.

More operations were cancelled in the health board's area and other parts of Scotland as well yesterday as Prime Minister David Cameron claimed the English NHS is coping better than the health service north of the Border.

Anne Thomson, senior officer with the RCN Scotland, said: "We are extremely concerned about the situation in Glasgow and the lack of staff to cope with the additional beds that have been opened up to try to deal with this crisis. The situation has been deteriorating over the last two weeks and really came to a head at the weekend.

"Many nursing staff working in Glasgow have been in contact with us to let us know how worried they are and concerned about how they can care for patients safely when there are so few staff and equipment is in such short supply."

The board is said to be holding three meetings a day to discuss the pressure across its major hospitals.

Managers revealed 2409 patients had to wait more than four hours in the region's A&Es over the Christmas and New Year weeks with one patient at the Victoria Infirmary stuck in the resuscitation unit for 24-and-a-half hours before a suitable specialist bed became available. Another patient at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley waited 20 hours in A&E.

In a statement NHS GGC said: "We deeply regret these delays and we would like to apologise to all our patients affected.

"We have implemented our detailed winter plan and further measures have been taken over the past few days as we continue to experience extreme pressure on our systems."

Three new wards have been opened at Glasgow Royal Infirmary (GRI), Inverclyde Royal Hospital and the Victoria Hospital to take emergency cases. On Monday evening seven extra beds were brought on line at GRI.

NHS GGC said: "In keeping with normal protocols individuals on the nurse bank were contracted to see if they were available to fill a shift. A meeting was today held at the request of the RCN to discuss this rapid response to the developing situation and we were able to reassure them that this is the standard protocol that we follow and that no one was put under pressure to come in whilst off-duty."

Since Monday, the health board has cancelled 70 planned operations, including 26 yesterday(wed). NHS Lothian has put off 44 procedures since Monday and NHS Grampian 65. James Crombie, director of scheduled care for NHS Lothian, apologised to all those affected.

Under fire about the pressure on A&Es in England, where a number of health trusts have declared major incidents, Mr Cameron said there were significant challenges but the "English NHS, that I am responsible for, is performing better than the Welsh NHS, the Scottish NHS or the NHS in Northern Ireland."

No 10 later said that Mr Cameron was referring only to A&E figures, not NHS performance across the board.

According to a Scottish Government source, figures for September show Scotland in the lead.

Labour leader Ed Miliband also faced controversy after Mr Cameron accused him of telling BBC Political Editor Nick Robinson he wanted to "weaponise" the NHS and use it against the Tories in the general election.

Mr Cameron denounced that comment as "a disgusting thing to say".

Labour refused to comment on private conversations but accused Mr Cameron of betraying voters' trust over the health service.

Meanwhile, a ward within Edinburgh Royal Infirmary has been closed to new admissions and transfers as a precaution after a patient was diagnosed with the Clostridium difficile (C-diff) bug. There has been a cluster of cases in NHS Lothian.