PATIENTS arriving at A&E in the Borders have been told they could be asked to wait in their cars after the department experienced the worst waiting times in Scotland.
NHS Borders said its emergency department at Borders General Hospital in Melrose has been “exceptionally busy” with “many patients having to wait for longer periods than we would want them to”.
The latest A&E figures from Public Health Scotland show that 606 patients had attended Borders General in the week ending September 12, of whom 67 (11%) spent 12 hours or more in the department waiting to be admitted, discharged or transferred.
In Scotland as a whole, the number of patients spending 12 or more hours in A&E hit a record high of 551 in the week ending September 12.
However, the 11% figure recorded by Borders General exceeds the 6% figure recorded by the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, Scotland busiest A&E department.
In a statement, NHS Borders said: “High patient activity coming into the hospital and increased staffing pressures across all of health and social care has translated into bed pressures inside the Borders General Hospital.
“This has resulted in long waits for admission for a number of patients.
“If you attend ED please be prepared to wait. You may even be asked to wait in your car, if able. Please have patience with our staff as they will see you as soon as possible.
“We are also caring for patients with Covid-19 in our hospitals. Because Covid-19 is so infectious these patients need to be cared for in separate wards which means there are less beds available for other patients.”
The statement issued advice to the public:
• If you are unwell seek the right care in the right place. Remember that our ED is for life-threatening emergencies such as suspected heart attack or stroke, severe breathing difficulties, severe bleeding and severe injury. In some cases we continue to experience people attending the ED who do not need specialist emergency care and we urge people to please use the experts in your community, such as your community pharmacist, dentist and GP, who will be able to advise you on the right care for you
• If you have an urgent health problem, that is not life threatening, such as suspected broken limbs or minor head injuries, contact NHS 24 on 111
• If you have a loved one in hospital and they are due to be discharged please help us by being ready and available to collect them. This makes a huge difference for us, and means that we can keep the flow through our hospitals moving
• Practice safe behaviours such as wearing face coverings in public indoor settings, wash hands regularly and keep rooms well ventilated
• Get both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine and your booster dose if you are eligible
• Keep testing twice a week using lateral flow tests when you are well
• Self-Isolate and seek a PCR test if you are unwell
Gareth Clinkscale, director of acute services at NHS Borders said: “We recognise that there has been unprecedented demand for healthcare services which unfortunately has meant that many patients have had to wait longer than we would have wished.
“Our teams clinically prioritise patients so that those sickest are seen first. We know that some people have not been seeking the help they need based on their symptoms for a variety of reasons.
“People are therefore arriving at our ED more deconditioned than they were before the pandemic. This means that we are seeing increased length of stays in hospital.
“This can quickly affect our bed capacity which can result in some people waiting longer to be admitted.
“Whilst we want to see everyone who needs us as soon as possible, we unfortunately cannot see everyone at once. This is why it is really important that you seek the right care in the right place. This is not only quicker for you but it also makes sure that our specialists are available to treat those most in need.”