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FMQs: Sturgeon ‘hiding behind Covid’ as shocking statistics reveals scale of NHS crisis

Nicola Sturgeon gave no indication of the number of extra acute beds the SNP has delivered so far, despite A&E waiting times hitting the worst ever levels this week.

At First Minister’s Questions, Douglas Ross raised shocking statistics revealing the scale of the crisis in Scotland’s NHS.

New figures from a parliamentary answer to the Scottish Conservatives revealed that 100,000 fewer cervical cancer screenings have taken place so far this year compared to the same period in 2019, before the pandemic struck.

Douglas Ross also asked why the number of patients waiting more than half a day to be seen at A&E is now ten times higher than the same week two years ago, despite admissions falling.

The Scottish Conservative Leader revealed that since 2015, over 850,000 people have waited for more than the four hour target time at A&E.

He challenged Nicola Sturgeon on the fact that, from 2016 to 2020, the number of staffed acute beds in Scotland has dropped by more than 2,500.

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine said this week that Scotland’s NHS needs 1,000 more acute beds to alleviate pressure on A&E.

Scottish Conservative Leader Douglas Ross said: “Covid has made things worse. But there are bigger, longer-term issues plaguing Scotland’s health service, which have been created by Nicola Sturgeon’s decisions over 14 years in government.

“The pandemic has completely exposed her government’s poor record on running Scotland’s NHS.

“SNP ministers are constantly behind the curve in tackling the crisis in Scotland’s NHS. They are reacting to circumstances, rather than being in control of them. They’re only acting when disaster strikes.

“We’re short on hospital beds. We’re short on frontline staff. We’re short on leadership from this government. The crisis is happening all through the NHS - capacity is down across the board.

“A&E waiting times are at record low levels – even though admissions in the last week were lower than this same week two years ago, before the pandemic.

“The dramatic drop in cervical cancer screenings is very worrying, especially considering the scandal that has already happened in Scotland involving this treatment. But the First Minister avoided answering why screenings are plummeting or how the government would help improve that situation.

“When Scotland’s NHS needs urgent action, it’s shameful that Nicola Sturgeon dodged questions about how many extra acute beds the government has delivered so far.

“Instead, she was once again hiding behind Covid and deflecting onto the rest of the UK.”

Notes

A parliamentary answer to the Scottish Conservatives revealed that 104,834 fewer cervical samples were collected so far this year compared to the same period in 2019. From January to August 2019 there were 275,664 collected, compared to 170,830 collected between January and August 2021. (Written Parliamentary Answer – available on request).

 

Since 2015, 854,762 people have waited for more than the four hour target time at A&E. (PHS, A&E Weekly – NHS Scotland excel, 21 September 2021, link).

 

Public Health Scotland figures show that 1000 fewer people were admitted to A&E this week, compared to the same week two years ago, but the number of patients waiting more than half a day to be seen at A&E is now ten times higher:

A&E stats week ending 15 September 2019:

Attendees: 28,736

Waiting over 4 hours: 88.1%

Waiting over 12 hours: 56

A&E stats week ending 13 September 2021

Attendees: 27,354

Waiting over 4 hours: 71.5%

Waiting over 12 hours: 551

(PHS, A&E Weekly – NHS Scotland excel, 21 September 2021, link).

 

Over 2,500 beds have been cut in the last 4 years. Figures from Public Health Scotland show that in quarter ending December 2020 there were on average 12,980 staffed beds per day. Compared to the quarter ending December 2016 when there was 15,495. (PHS, Acute hospital activity and NHS beds information, 25 May 2021, link; ISD, Acute hospital activity and NHS beds information, 28 March 2017, link).

Earlier this week the Royal College of Emergency Medicine said that the NHS needed 1000 more acute beds.  John Thomson, vice-president for the Royal College of Emergency Medicine in Scotland: ‘The college estimates that we're approximately 1,000 beds short nationally and that would certainly help alleviate some of the issues relating to what we call exit block, which are patients waiting to move from the emergency department when they no longer require care within the department’.