The NHS in Scotland has made significant improvements over the first year of a £50 million action plan for emergency care.
Since the action plan was introduced, there has been a 87 per cent reduction in patients waiting over 12 hours.
In addition, the number of people attending A&E who were seen and treated within four hours was 93.5 per cent for December 2013, which has increased from 90.3 per cent in December 2012.
Health Secretary Alex Neil has commented on Audit Scotland’s latest review of Accident & Emergency (A&E) waiting times, which recognises work already done to identify pressures and the steps taken to ensure patients get the right treatment as quickly as possible.
The report shows that Scotland’s A&E departments are treating more patients than ever before, an increase of 3.1 per cent since the publication of their last report in 2009.
Mr Neil said:
“The NHS in Scotland is treating more emergency patients than ever before. Our staff are also seeing more patients who are presenting with more serious illnesses.
“This trend and pressure is evident across all developed health services, including the rest of the UK, and there is no doubt it presents considerable challenges in terms of treating patients quickly – as Audit Scotland’s report makes clear.
“But the report also makes it clear that Scotland’s NHS has acted on this. Patients are already seeing real improvement as a result of our three year £50 million emergency care action programme.
“Our dedicated front line staff, supported by this national programme, have already produced a dramatic reduction in the number of patients facing long waits this winter – an 87 per cent reduction compared to December 2012. And, as Audit Scotland acknowledge, performance on the four hour target has improved by 3.2 percentage points over the last year.
“We have already invested heavily – both in service improvements and more staff. That includes the 18 new consultants now appointed across NHS Scotland.
“This builds on the increase under this Government, which has seen the number of A&E consultants has more than double, from 75.8 to 162.3 since 2006.
“We’re also working with health boards to ensure they can achieve our interim 95 per cent target by September this year, as an important step towards sustainably delivering 98 per cent by the end of the £50 million three year action plan.
“But we know that to we need to look at health and social services, both within and out-with the hospital setting, to improve these life-line services and that is exactly what we will do in years two and three of the national programme.
“For example, our new non-emergency care direction guidance will make sure that patients are getting the right treatment, in the right place and by the right clinicians.
“However, I am under no illusion that we have more to do and I am clear that health boards must continue to prioritise this vital work to ensure that we can build on the progress made.”
Latest statistics (released on 25 February) show that in the fourth quarter of 2013 performance against the four hour A&E treatment target was 94.0 per cent.
In December Scotland’s four hour performance was 93.5 per cent overall, which compared to 89.4 per cent in Wales.