Emergency waiting times improve despite surge in demand and the risk to life is minimal

Reported on 13 September 2022:

Attendances at Scotland’s A&E departments in the week-ending 4 September 2002, increased from 26 555 to 27 016.

In the same time, performance improved from 66.1% seen in 4 hours to 67.7%.

BBC Scotland did not report this but the Herald’s Tom Gordon did. He did!

Then he wrote:

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine has warned long delays are harming or killing more than 30 patients a week. 

A key factor is a lack of social care places leading to the delayed discharge of patients medically fit enough to leave hospital.

This creates an overall shortage of beds, making it harder to advance patients through A&E.


None of this is true.

There is no shortage of beds in NHS Scotland with around twice as many per head of population than NHS England: https://www.interweavetextiles.com/how-many-hospital-beds-uk/

There are over 50% more nurses, per head of population in Scotland, to treat the patients: https://www.gov.scot/publications/foi-19-00620/

In September 2022 there were typically only around around 600 in hospital compared to more than 2 000 in March 2022. https://www.travellingtabby.com/scotland-coronavirus-tracker/

There is no correlation between A&E waiting times and deaths as the ambulance prioritising system and the triage system in hospitals ensure that those at risk are cared for extremely quickly. At worst, delays result in longer waiting times only for those cases in which to do so is not life-threatening. The RCEM know this fine well.



14 thoughts on “Emergency waiting times improve despite surge in demand and the risk to life is minimal

    1. “The Royal College of Emergency Medicine has warned long delays are harming or killing more than 30 patients a week.”

      Use The Herald’s search facility for the above phrase. Shows the lying shyster for the gaslighter he is. He’s used this quote repeatedly going back to the beginning of May.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. John, first of all welcome back. Hope you had a good break. In the circumstances might have been better to have taken a fortnight away like our neighbours who are off to Tenerife for 14 days?!?! Timing is all!
    Now, to being Devil’s Advocate. You point out – correctly – that there are more doctors, nurses and beds than in England (per head of population). Two cheers for there are limits to this argument.
    First if you can find a reasonable Unionist, they will come back at you with that we can only do this because of the “Union dividend”, that there is more public sector spending in Scotland per head than elsewhere in the UK.
    More serious for me, is using England as the benchmark, or a useful comparator. How appropriate is this, beyond that Scotland and England are operating within a broadly similar financial settlement? How much does having more nurses etc than England support the kind of health outcomes we would all want. I suspect comparisons with countries that have better healthcare outcomes than our own, spend a great deal more than we do, but is this not the point? What kind of healthcare does Scotland need? Could we afford it? The answer to me is an unequivocal “YES”, so should we not be using other comparators than just showing that we are doing better than England, but that a different (better) direction is the one we want to pursue, how it will be put in place, what its advantages are, and how we would pay for it. This seems to me a more cutting argument than just we are doing better than England. More often than not – so not just health – it’s not a high bar.


    1. ‘…. it’s not a high bar.’

      Ok, I agree that we should be aspiring for Scotland to be as good as the ‘best’ in (say) Europe in as many aspects as possible of economic, social and environmental policy and its implementation. We should be seeking to convince sceptics that being alongside the best is feasible if – and only if – we have all the powers, all the agency, of a normal independent nation-state.

      But none of this IMHO negates the value of providing evidence of how we compare with England, whose government does have all the power and agency of a normal independent nation state, unlike (too dependent) Scotland.

      And the current political context here is important: we know that the Unionist opposition commonly claims that Scotland’s health, education, justice etc. systems are ‘failing’. It is surely worthwhile to demonstrate otherwise: if we can’t convincingly expose these claims of failure as lies – talking up Scotland’s performance and damaging the credibility of those who make such claims in the process – it may be a BIG stretch to convince sceptics that we can go from a ‘failing’ state to a ‘best in class’ one. So I suggest it is necessary – albeit not sufficient – to refute claims of failure which may be designed to undermine the confidence of those still hesitant to ‘risk’ independence.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I don’t think we disagree at all about your first paragraph
        I don’t disagree with all of your second paragraph entirely. However, while we agree that Scotland should have “all the power and agency of a normal independent nation state, unlike (too dependent) Scotland” this leaves the question hanging “what do we do with it? What would we use it for?” Is it really so limited as just “better than Englan”, or in many cases “not as bad as England”,
        Really all I am saying is that we need to lift our eyes if not to the hills (pretty good for a devout agnostic not in Church for years) then to elsewhere in the world, to show what it might be possible to achieve with “all the power and agency of a normal independent nation state,”
        I have no problem with refuting the media, which is a cesspit of lies and distortion, but should there not be a positive case for independence that focuses on whether it is possible, how it could be possible and what we would do with it, beyond no longer being part of the UK, which in some regards is playing the Unionist game. In that sense we are allowing the Unionists to set the terms of the debate, when we should be taking over ownership.


        1. I think comparison with England and Wales is highly relevant, not only past but current performance. For the past couple of months at least the UK gov have been threatening to intervene in devolved services, healthcare and education have been repeatedly used by almost all of the candidates for PM during their election campaigns. They lied, with none of the candidates health services even remotely close to those in Scotland.


          1. Just for the record and in case I havent expressed myself too clearly, I have never said it wasnt relevant. My problem is with using that as the only comparator, and that independence might be taken forward by thinking about the world outside the UK as well, and how, with freedom from the constraints of the UK, how we might use that freedom?


      2. and one other thing, how much does having more nurses than England support the sort of healthcare that Scotland needs, other than if we had the same level as England it would be even worse? This is not to be critical of the comparison with England – that is the starting point – but comparisons with elsewhere in the world would rub home that not only are we doing better than them, but that with sovereign powers we might do even better by using the practices of other countries aspire to their higher levels of healthcare.
        To be contentious again, is the UK NHS model really the best model for healthcare, or are there others out there in the wider world that might deliver outcomes that are not just better but fairer, addressing the needs of the whole community.


    2. The whole point of comparing Scotland to England is rebuttal of British media lies
      Making comparisons with countries outside U.K. is for another place another blog
      You do see that Alasdair , don’t you ?


      1. Of course I do. How could I do otherwise. I even note that the comparison is reasonable in that both Scotland and England are operating with in much the same financial envelope. But as (I think) Gianfranco Poggi (former Sociology Prof at Edinburgh once said) “A way of seeing is also a way of not seeing”. A constant comparison only to the rest of the UK is, in effect saying, we will not be like the UK, we will be better than them. And I hope we will be. But if we are saying we wont be like the UK, we will be better, what are we saying we will we be like?
        So to summarise
        1. I agree that we need to rebut media lies – I wish the SNP was half as good as John at this
        2. I’m sorry but I dont think making comparisons beyond the low bar of the UK is for another place (or even another blog – though that is for John to judge). If people are to be really inspired, then do we not need to inspire them beyond “we’ll be better than the rest of the UK?”


  2. Welcome back –
    Distortions over what the figures actually mean are a staple of the media and opposition spiel, the RCEM’s further distortion of deaths arising being one of the more perverse. With figures being so regularly released by NHSS, there is always an opportunity to regurgitate this nonsense.

    As you correctly highlight, every patient attending A&E is immediately assessed and prioritised, then the clock starts – What the stats cannot tell you is what is cause for delay in the process, as much in the hands of the patient as it is hospital resources – The patient sobering up or waiting on the laxative to take effect are harly a flaw in A&E handling.
    All it takes is a serious RTA to arrive at A&E to completely reprioritise resources, none in the existing queue is going to complain, only hacks and SG opposition do so for political reasons.

    So what does a rise or fall of 1.6% actually tell the reader or Hospital and Health Board managers ? In all likelihood absolutely nothing.


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