It was a scene of ‘pressure-cooker’ chaos, of patients waiting in limbo for over 12 hours, a new £150 million hospital left bulging at the seams.
But, in an astonishing turnaround, Victoria Hospital’s A&E department has gone from being one of the worst in Scotland to being one of the best.
In November/December 2012, 1067 people in A&E waited longer than four hours for treatment.
In addition, 235 waited over eight hours and 99 were forced to sit it out for 12 hours and more.
In comparison, this winter has seen 144 people wait over four hours, a mere five were left over eight hours and, significantly, there were no 12 hour breaches.
The change has been credited to the introduction in August of NHS Fife’s £4 million ‘unscheduled care action plan’.
Medical Director of Acute Services, Dr Gordon Birnie commented: “A great deal of work has been carried out to streamline our services and improve the flow of patients through the system.
“The combination of these changes, along with the continued hard work and dedication of frontline staff, has resulted in a much improved service for patients attending our Accident and Emergency Department.”
Last year’s winter woes were blamed not on numbers of people attending A&E but chronic shortage of key consultants and a capacity failure which saw emergency patients admitted to jam-packed wards.
The new plan introduced a new Discharge Hub to reduce bed-blocking, more home-care packages in the community and extra bed capacity in Ward 13.
DR Birnie said: “The discharge hub is working extremely well. It’s a collaboration between clinical and community in a way that’s not been seen locally before. It’s attracting a lot of national interest.”
Although 60 people were still “boarded out” to alternative wards this winter, NHS Fife achieved a 97 per cent success rate in admitting, discharging or transferring patients within the government’s four hour target time.
Dave Stewart, former chair of the Acute Services Divisional Committee, vowed in September that Victoria Hospital would not see a repeat of last year’s crisis.
Reacting to the latest figures. he commented: “I would have to pay tribute to the executive and management teams for putting the plan in place to help resolve what had been long term issues, to produce this performance.”
Meanwhile, frontline A&E staff were given an unexpected boost on January 1 and 2, when only 70 people turned up at their doors, compared to the expected 400.
The reduction coincides with the introduction of a “Drink Tank” in Dunfermline, a unit operated by the Scottish Ambulance Service and Police Scotland.
Acting chair of the Acute Services Divisional Committee, Alastair Robertson said: “ Staff in the Vic were sitting twiddling their thumbs waiting for the rush!”