Full to bursting: Health services struggle to cope with 20% rise in numbers over Christmas
Accident &Emergency attendances in the week leading up to Christmas Day rose by almost 20 per cent compared to the same period last year. Across Scotland, 26,569 people visited A&E in the week ending 24th December, up almost 20% or over 4,000 attendances on the same week last year. NHS 24 also reported their busiest period in the service’s fifteen year history.
Boards are attributing the rise on the continued presence of acute seasonal illnesses, and the rate of GP consultations for flu and respiratory infections has risen by over a quarter for that week. NHS24 and the Scottish Ambulance Service also reported rises in call volume.
Weekly A&E waiting time performance for this week is 83.3% – an improvement of 2.2 percentage points on the previous week. Monthly A&E figures until the end of November show that 93.3% of people were seen within the four hour target.
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.
“Local pharmacies can help with minor ailments and minor injuries units should be the first port of call for sprains, cuts and suspected fractures, while NHS 24 will help when the GP surgery or pharmacy is closed and you are too ill to wait.
“Online resources such as www.NHSinform.scot has a range of easy to use, self-help guides on a number of common conditions.
“Only go to A&E if you have had an accident or you are experiencing significant difficulties, such as trouble breathing or severe bleeding.”
Health Secretary Shona Robison added: “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 £22.4m to create extra resilience across the system.”
During the week ending 24 December 2017:
- There were 26,569 A&E attendances for week ending 24th December 17, up almost 20% or over 4,000 attendances on the comparable week last year.
- The following sites had increases in attendance above 25% compared to the comparable week last year; Borders (26%), Inverclyde (34%), Queen Elizabeth (26%), Royal Hospital for Children (44%), Raigmore (28%), Wishaw (33%).
GP consultations for influenza-like illness have increased to 41/100,000 from 32.5/100,000 in previous week.
Scotland’s telephone and online health service, NHS 24,has seen the busiest Christmas and New Year period since the service began 15 years ago. Over the two four day weekends, call demand reached 95,784, far above that predicted.
During the same period access to NHS 24’s web services reached a total of 238,089 visits.
NHS 24’s Medical Director Dr Laura Ryan said: “This season has been the busiest on record for all NHS 24 services and the 111 service was no exception. Tens of thousands of calls were made with coughs, colds and seasonal illness accounting for the majority of these calls. People have also been using our websites to find information on symptoms, use the self help guides and find out when services are open.
“Hundreds of NHS 24 staff have worked extremely hard over this period when we have seen unprecedented demand. We know that at peak times, people calling our 111 service had to wait longer than usual to have their calls dealt with and we do thank everyone for their patience. We also must give a huge thank you to our colleagues, many of whom have spent time away from their families in order to support callers across Scotland during this exceptionally busy time.”
Scottish Government Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “The dedication and commitment of NHS 24 staff in the face of the unprecedented demand the health service is facing is nothing short of heroic.
“All Scotland’s health workers should get the praise they rightly deserve for the invaluable work that they do all year round.
“I want to add my own personal admiration for our NHS staff and recognise how they continue to put the care of others first.”