A MAJOR Scottish A&E department has been operating beyond its capacity for every single hour of every day last month.

Routine hourly checks by staff show that the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary's A&E capacity of 40 patients was exceeded throughout August – and on average by 200%, or 80 patients, at any given time. Over the same month in 2019, the capacity was exceeded by over half that - at 38 patients.

Analysis of 24 hourly snapshots during August shows that on one day, August 15, it had been operating at 104 patients over capacity. In 2019, before the pandemic, the worst case scenario saw the hospital running at 55 over capacity.

On its busiest day this summer, the A&E department at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary was looking after 144 patients, that’s 260% overcapacity.

The findings offered what has been described as a "terrifying snapshot" of the scale of the pressure Scotland's emergency wards are under, according to the Scottish Conservatives.

The NHS Lothian figures show that, since the turn of the year, Edinburgh Royal’s A&E department has, on average, been beyond capacity for 22 hours per day.

The health board also confirmed that those patients waiting to be seen are typically kept in corridors on trolleys or chairs, or asked to sit – and in exceptional circumstances stand – in the waiting room.

NHS Lothian’s problems were not confined to the Edinburgh Royal.

The A&E departments at the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People, the Western General and St John’s in Livingston were also operating beyond capacity for the majority of this summer.

It comes as it emerged last week that performance on waiting times targets at Scotland's hospital A&E units have hit a new low.

HeraldScotland: The Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh is among the sites where A&E figures were being misreported (Pic: Gordon Terris/The Herald)

Figures for the week ending 11 September showed just 63.5% of patients were dealt with within four hours.

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf admitted those figures were "not acceptable" and he was determined to improve performance.

Figures for the week ending 11 September showed just 63.5% of patients were dealt with within four hours.

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said the figures were "not acceptable" and he was determined to improve performance.

Shadow health secretary Dr Sandesh Gulhane believes the situation in NHS Lothian is being mirrored across Scotland, and he has warned Humza Yousaf to act now before more lives are needlessly lost due to the excess delays patients are experiencing.

Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary, Dr Sandesh Gulhane MSP, said: “These stats provide a terrifying snapshot of the unbearable strain frontline A&E staff are operating under in Scotland.

“I’m certain that the over-capacity crisis they reveal is not unique to NHS Lothian, because we know how bad waiting-time figures are in emergency wards across Scotland.“But it still beggars belief to think that there was not a single moment last month when Edinburgh Royal staff weren’t battling to clear a backlog of emergency patients.

“No wonder waiting times are the worst on record when staff are constantly stretched beyond breaking point. And the tragic reality is that these excess delays lead inevitably to avoidable deaths.

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“The buck stops with Humza Yousaf and the SNP Government for this crisis, and they must not attempt to shift the blame."

The Scottish Government began publishing weekly A&E statistics in February 2015 over concerns that the figure had dropped to 86%.

The figure has been below 70% since May and the previous low was 64.8% at the beginning of July.

In the latest weekly figures from Public Health Scotland, 27,097 attended A&E and a record number waited more than four hours (9,895).

The number of people waiting more than eight hours was 3,367 - a new high - and 1,257 people waited longer than 12 hours.

Dr Gulhane added: "Our dedicated NHS workers are burning out. Both A&E staff and patients are being let down by the SNP's dreadful workforce planning, which has left Scotland’s A&E wards dangerously under-staffed for years.

“Humza Yousaf’s flimsy Covid Recovery Plan simply isn’t fit for purpose and must be rewritten immediately.

“The most alarming thing about these figures is that they cover the height of summer, when A&E wards are traditionally quieter.

“It’s frightening to think how bad the situation will be this winter unless the Health Secretary finally gets a grip of the A&E crisis, which he has ignored for too long.”

Health secretary Humza Yousaf said: “I recognise A&E departments, including NHS Lothian, are working under significant pressure and I am grateful for their continued efforts as we recover from the pandemic, which is still affecting services.

“As I have made clear, the latest A&E performance is not where it needs to be. A letter has issued to boards setting out immediate actions to ensure immediate performance recovery and I will meet with the boards facing the most challenges next week to discuss further support to their improvement plans.

“We are working with boards to reduce pressure on hospitals, including our £50 million Unscheduled Care Collaborative programme, which supports further development of Flow Navigation Centres in every board to ensure rapid access to a clinician and scheduled appointments.”