Surge in Fife A&E waiting times prompts appeal to people to use services responsibly

A surge in the numbers of people going to A&E in Fife has prompted an appeal.

Wednesday, 14th July 2021, 1:15 pm

Latest figures show there were 7039 attendances at NHS Fife A&E units in May - the highest since August 2020.

The number is 41 per cent up on the the 4989 attendances recorded last May.

Following the statistical data from Public Health Scotland NHS Fife has urged locals to help minimise the pressure on its A&E department by using services “responsibly.”

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Fifers are being urged to use urgent health care services responsibly following a surge in A&E waiting times.
Fifers are being urged to use urgent health care services responsibly following a surge in A&E waiting times.

The data also reveal 900 patients waited longer than the four-hour target to be seen in May, up 394, or 77 per cent, compared to April.

For the week ending July 4, the statistics show only 81.4 per cent of Fife A&E patients were seen within the target.

NHS Fife sits just below the Scottish average of 81.6 per cent, with only four other health boards seeing fewer people on time.

The target set by the Scottish Government is 95 per cent.

Willie Rennie (Pic: Lisa Ferguson)

Andrew Mackay, NHS Fife deputy chief operating officer, said there has been a sharp increase in demand over recent weeks due to a greater number of emergency admissions, coupled with a rising prevalence of Covid-19.

He said the increase in admissions is also due to people attending A&E when they should be using more appropriate services.

He said: “We need the public to help us minimise these pressures by using our urgent care services responsibly.

"Accident and Emergency is designed to care for those with a life-threatening emergency.

"While the majority of patients use this service appropriately, there continues to be a sizeable number of people attending who could be seen more appropriately by their nearest Minor Injuries Unit, their local pharmacy or their GP.

"And this adds to the pressure within the busy A&E, leads to longer waiting times and makes it more difficult to maintain appropriate social distancing within waiting areas.”

Mr Mackay said changes were made last year to urgent care provision in Scotland with the ‘Right Care, Right Place’ initiative.

It was designed to help people get the right care in the right place whilst reducing the pressure on busy frontline NHS services.

He added: “Those with life-threatening conditions including suspected heart attacks or strokes, severe breathing difficulties, severe bleeding, or severe injury should continue to go to A&E or call 999.

“Anyone whose condition is not life-threatening should instead call NHS 24 on 111 and be directed towards the most appropriate service.”

Green MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife Mark Ruskell said: “The surge in demand for A&E is certainly a challenge for our health services at a time when the pandemic continues to place an unprecedented strain on hospitals.

“The fact that Victoria Hospital lags behind national wait time averages is of particular concern.

"I would call on NHS Fife and the Scottish Government to do everything they can to raise awareness of alternatives to A&E such as minor injury units and pharmacies.”

North East Fife MSP Willie Rennie added: “The number of hospitalisations may have improved due to the vaccine, but we know the number of people catching Covid and having to self-isolate is spiralling.

“The Scottish Government needs to come forward with urgent changes on isolation policies. That means a test and release system, as recommended by the Royal College of Surgeons and others.”

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