DOCTORS say patients have deteriorated and become seriously ill while waiting to be seen in overcrowded accident and emergency departments as official figures show the worst hospital crisis in Scotland for more than seven years.


In one week alone almost 200 people had to spend more than 12 hours queueing on trolleys in A&E departments as hospitals ran out of beds.

During January, the proportion of patients dealt with in A&Es within the Scottish Government's four-hour target dropped to 87 per cent - the lowest figure recorded on official charts dating back to January 2008.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde had the worst performance at 79 per cent and senior managers are said to be stationed in hospitals across the board area trying to tackle the situation.

A support team which was working to improve the problem at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley is now being sent into Glasgow's Western Infirmary and Health Secretary Shona Robison has announced £5 million to try to relieve pressure on NHS GGC hospitals.

However, many other health boards are also struggling, with Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and Arran, Lothian and Forth Valley all well behind on the four-hour A&E target.

Dr Martin McKechnie, vice president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine in Scotland, said there had been cases of people becoming seriously ill with heart and respiratory problems while queuing for treatment in A&Es.

He said: "People have become acutely unwell while waiting, which would not have happened if they had been brought into a cubicle. The reason they cannot be brought in is because the cubicles are full with patients waiting for ward beds and there are corridors of patients on trolleys as well."

Dr McKechnie said the latest analysis shows that one of the difficulties is the number of patients over the age of 85 who cannot be discharged from ward beds because they are so unwell. Medical advances mean people with long term conditions are surviving longer, but their health can suddenly deteriorate and require detailed hospital care.

Dr McKechnie said: "Even three years ago, seeing a 90-year-old or a 100-year-old was a once a weekly occurrence. Now it is every day."

He added: "They need to be treated - we cannot not treat them - but the facility to deal with that is not readily available at the moment."

The number of patients who are stuck in hospital waiting for care to be organised for them in the community, including care home places, has also left wards short of space. Between October to December 2014, the equivalent of 168,526 bed days were occupied by these delayed discharge patients, up around nine per cent on the previous year. January figures show some improvement.

The Herald's NHS: Time for Action campaign began calling on the Scottish Government to plan the resources needed to look after the growing elderly population since 2013. Ms Robison has just announced some steps to do this.

The Scottish Government has also bowed to opposition pressure to publish figures on A&E waiting times every week. The first bulletin, for the week ending Sunday February 22, shows the proportion of patients discharged from A&Es within four hours was down to 86 per cent. Some 689 patients were detained for more than eight hours and 187 more than 12.

Ms Robison said: "Staff in Scotland's NHS are continuing to do a fantastic job to treat people as quickly as possible. This winter has been a very challenging time with an increase in attendances and admissions, as well as more severe flu related illnesses and treating more people with complex illnesses.

"It is promising to see we are making improvements in reducing the number of people who are delayed from leaving hospital. This is good for the patient and also improves on the flow through the whole hospital system, freeing up beds to help people move out of A&E.

"We are also employing a record number of staff within the NHS, with a further rise in nurses and consultants.

"But more clearly needs to be done to tackle the issues facing our NHS."

Theresa Fyffe, director of the Royal College of Nursing Scotland, said: "The statistics reinforce exactly why we think the Scottish Government should take a coherent approach to the entire health and social care system.

"However, currently, it appears that problems are being considered in isolation via individual task forces and working groups. If patient care is to improve we need a joined-up, co-ordinated approach, and we need it now."

Jenny Marra, Scottish Labour health spokeswoman, said: "In the first weekly publication of A&E performance, Scotland was worse than England, with 187 patients waiting more than 12 hours in a single week. That is completely unacceptable.

"Today's figures show that A&E is in crisis under the SNP."