A and E waiting times improve as task force announced

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  A new task force will oversee the delivery of the Scottish Government’s action plan to improve the way emergency care operates within hospitals, it was confirmed today.

The group will be headed by Jim Crombie, from NHS Glasgow, who is the Scottish Government’s new National Programme Director for Unscheduled Care.

Members of the Royal Colleges, general practioners and chief executives from NHS Tayside, Grampian and the Scottish ambulance service will form the task force and lead a programme of improvements worth £50m for patients arriving at hospital for unscheduled, emergency care.

Figures published today by ISD Scotland show that the number of people attending A&E who were seen and treated within four hours reached 91.9 per cent for March 2013, an improvement on the December and January figures and equal to February.  The figures also show that 0.1 per cent of people spent more than 12 hours in the emergency department in March 2013, a decrease from 0.3 per cent in December 2012.

Total A&E attendances have increased from 1.6 million in 2008/09 to 1.65 million in 2012/13.  During the quarter ending 31 March 2013, the proportion of new and unplanned attendances at all A&E services across Scotland that were seen and discharged within 4 hours was: 89.7% January, 91.9% February and 91.9% March.

In March 2013 four NHS Boards achieved the waiting time standard of 98% of patients admitted, transferred or discharged from A&E within 4 hours.  Two others came within 1% of reaching the target, with one other 1.1% within the target.

Health Secretary Alex Neil said:

“We are taking significant action to improve unscheduled care in Scotland to make sure people are seen and treated in our hospitals and as quickly as possible. 

“There is no doubt that pressure on our A&E departments is a pressing issue.  We have seen a busy winter and, as we continue to deal with the demands of an ageing population, we are seeing an increase in admissions, adding even more pressure on doctors and nurses who are doing an outstanding job.

“That is why we are investing £50 million in our unscheduled action plan, to ensure people are seen quickly and treated effectively when they arrive at hospital in an emergency.  

“The new taskforce that I have brought together to oversee this process involves experts from across Scotland and across the medical profession.

“I am confident that these are the right people for the job. The key lies in looking at the whole healthcare system and we are already starting to see progress.”

Through the £50 million Unscheduled Care Action Plan the Scottish Government, NHS Boards, Royal Colleges and other partners are taking action to strengthen unscheduled care in Scotland with a priority focus on the flow of patients through the whole system.

The Unscheduled Care Action Plan will:  

  • Change the way that people are seen when they are admitted to hospital to make sure that they are treated as fast as possible;
  • Look at how staff work so that people can leave hospital as soon as they are ready;
  • Improve links with other areas of healthcare so that support is in place for people to be treated in the community if possible.

Jim Crombie, seconded from NHS Glasgow is the Scottish Government’s new National Programme Director for Unscheduled Care.  At NHS Glasgow, consistently one of Boards with lowest wait times, Mr Crombie is director of surgery and anaesthesia.

Dr Jason Long Chair of the College of Emergency Medicine Scotland said:

“This is an important initiative that will improve emergency medicine across Scotland, and we welcome the opportunity to collaborate on this initiative.”

Mr Ian Ritchie President Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh said: “I am sure that every clinician in the health service in Scotland would recognise these strategic themes as being important in the efficient and safe management of patients in the emergency context.

“I am particularly pleased to see the emphasis is not just on the front door but also on what happens to patients once their emergency condition has been deal with, and is moving on to what happens to them in the community.

“The Royal College of Surgeons fully supports this high level approach to considering the needs of patients in the National Health Service in relation to emergency work.”

Dr Neil Dewhurst, President Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, said: “The College wholeheartedly supports this initiative.”

The 4 hour waiting time standard came into place in 2007 and continues to be the measure by which the Scottish Government (SG) monitors NHS boards’ performance within A&E Services.

The Scottish Government has announced a new HEAT target to support the sustainable delivery of 4 hour A&E performance all year round.  The first target milestone is for 95% of patients to wait no more than 4 hours from arrival to admission, discharge or transfer for accident and emergency treatment by the year ending September 2014.

In England the situation has been decsribed as “out of control” with two thirds of hospitals failing to reach a 95% target of four hour waiting times.  English Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is said to be seeking £400m from the UK Treasury in order to help NHS England address the problem.