Scotland politics

Emergency doctors call for better funding and staffing

Hospital ward Image copyright GUSTOIMAGES/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

An organisation representing emergency care doctors is calling for four steps to be taken to address the challenges facing emergency departments.

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) in Scotland is calling for better funding and staffing.

It comes on the day the latest weekly A&E waiting time figures were published showing a slight improvement.

Health Secretary Shona Robison described the measures as "in line with the work we are already doing".

The four-point plan is part of Royal College's Step campaign.

It states:

•Safe and sustainable staffing levels must be achieved

•Terms, working conditions and funding must be fair and effective

•Exit block and overcrowding must be tackled

•Primary care facilities must be co-located with Emergency Department services

Dr Martin McKechnie, vice president (Scotland) of RCEM, said: "This campaign is essential for providing immediate support to, as well as ensuring the future of, Scotland's emergency departments.

"The college welcomes the support the Scottish government has given to increasing staffing and tackling crowding in our emergency departments.

Image caption The latest weekly statistics on waiting time performance are due to be published

"We now need real action to be taken to champion our talented emergency medicine workforce, otherwise we will continue to lose staff to emigration and to other specialties."

The latest weekly waiting time figures for Scottish emergency departments suggested 92% of people were treated within four hours, an increase from 90% last week.

However, the figure is still short of the Scottish government's target for 95% of people to be treated and discharged within four hours.

In January, the Scottish government announced £100m to help health boards and local authorities tackle bed blocking to help people move out of A&E and through the system.

Last month, Ms Robison said this winter had seen "unprecedented pressures" in hospitals.

Scottish Green MSP Alison Johnstone said: "Our health service is under enormous pressure and I urge the Scottish government to listen carefully to what A&E staff are saying.

"I have previously raised with ministers the problem of delayed discharge, and this must be a key area for investment to free up capacity in emergency departments."

Government response

In response to the Royal College's call, Ms Robison said: "I welcome the Royal College of Emergency Medicine acknowledgement of the support the Scottish government has given to increasing staffing and tackling crowding in our accident and emergency departments.

"The four points suggested by the college are relevant and in line with the work we are already doing to improve A&E performance as it faces challenges like increased demand and an ageing population.

"For example, we have continued to drive increased recruitment. Since September 2006 the number of emergency medicine consultants has risen from 75.8 whole time equivalent staff to 205 - an increase of 170.6% and we are committed to working with the RCEM on this issue.

"The new emergency department workload tool, which will be rolled out later this year across Scotland, is being designed with doctors and nurses to help ensure that hospitals continue to have in place appropriate staffing to meet the variable workload demands.

"Fixing the exit block from the emergency department and how a patient moves back into the community is also a priority. We have committed £100m specifically to help tackle delayed discharged and are piloting innovative, world-leading ideas on patient flow."

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