Almost 60% of all Scottish emergency hospital waiting times of more than 12 hours over one month were in Ayrshire earlier this year.
Both Crosshouse and University Ayr Hospitals have since seen increases in the monthly number of patients being ‘treated, admitted or discharged’ after 12 hours or more at their emergency departments.
This has been a factor in NHS Ayrshire and Arran halting elective orthopedic surgery in July and August. Health services have been impacted by staff ill or in isolation, social distancing limits and packed wards.
The most recent figures, from June 2021, showed 236 breaches of the 12-hour wait, 200 at Crosshouse Hospital and 36 at University Ayr Hospital. That compares to 120 across Ayrshire in April.
There were zero breaches in June 2020, when the first lockdown was still in place, and 96 precovid in June 2019 (61 at Crosshouse and 35 at University Ayr).
While the figures have been increasing, they are still lower than the 312 breaches in January 21 and the pre-Covid high of 512 in January 2020. The majority of the increases in 2021 have come at Crosshouse.
Kirstin Dickson, director for transformation and sustainability, said that Ayrshire and Arran was an ‘outlier’ when it came to the waiting times, after the numbers attending emergency units between April and June this year had been significantly higher than anticipated.
She said: “This was more than 2000 more than anticipated when setting out remobilisation plans. We are seeing that increased attendances at the Emergency Departments are impacting on compliance with the four hour wait – eacch consecutive month.
“Both hospitals are also exceeding the 12 hour wait and mitigation actions were put in place in the last couple of months, aiming to decompress the system and minimise the impact
“As has been mentioned, this contributed to the decision to pause some of our planned care.”
In her report Dickson stated: “Patients waiting longer than 12 hours for an inpatient bed is a significant patient safety concern.
“Twelve hour bed waits are a symptom of high bed occupancy rates on site. To ensure efficient hospital flow, it is generally accepted that bed occupancy rate should be at 85% or less.
“To make a significant improvement there are three key projects being taking forward.”
Board member Jean Ford said that the issue of unscheduled admissions had been one that had perplexed her when she joined the Board two years ago.
“I would be asking ‘how can you not get the staff’,” she explained.
“Two years in, it has reached a point where this feels like it is an impossible jigsaw that no-one ever gives you all the pieces for.
“Feels like ongoing challenge that will never ever go away. My whole opinion has changed over that period. We must constantly commend people for taking another step and for keeping banging their head off another wall – and I mean that in the best way possible.”
By local democracy reporter Kevin Dyson