A&E departments miss waiting-times target in week before Christmas

Waiting times in Scotland's accident-and-emergency (A&E) units remained below a key target in the week before Christmas as demand rose by almost 20% on the previous year.

Figures for the week ending December 24 showed 83.3% of patients were seen and either admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours, against a target of 95%.

A total of 26,569 people visited A&E during the week before Christmas, figures show

A total of 26,569 people visited A&E during the week before Christmas, figures show

The figure represents a slight increase from 81.1% the previous week and is down from 93.5% on the same week the previous year.

A total of 26,569 people visited A&E during the week, up almost 20% from the 22,267 attendances in the same week in 2016.

The Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow experienced a 44% increase in attendances while the city's Queen Elizabeth University Hospital saw a 26% rise.

Wishaw, Raigmore, Borders and Inverclyde hospitals also saw increases of more than 25%.

Health boards attributed the rise in demand to acute seasonal illnesses, with the rate of GP consultations for flu and respiratory infections rising by over a quarter during the period.

NHS24 and the Scottish Ambulance Service also reported rises in call volume.

Meanwhile, separate monthly statistics show that during November, 93.3% of people were seen within the four-hour target.

The figure is down slightly from 94.4% in October and 93.6% in November 2016.

Health Secretary Shona Robison said: "Our NHS and community health service do a fantastic job all year round but there is no doubt that winter can bring additional demands, and I'd like to thank them once again for the dedication they have shown during this busy winter period.

"We're working with boards to help them cope with pressures and this year alone we have invested £22.4 million to create extra resilience across the system."

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Gregor Smith said: "These figures illustrate the demands being placed on health staff right across Scotland as a result of spikes in various illnesses such as flu.

"We can all play a part in ensuring demand on our most acute services is minimised, however, by taking time to think of the best way to access treatment.

"Only go to A&E if you have had an accident or you are experiencing significant difficulties, such as trouble breathing or severe bleeding."

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