Unwell patients staying away from Forth Valley Hospital

Messages asking people not to attend the ‘very busy’ emergency department at Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert could be putting people off seeking treatment as quickly as they should.

Thursday, 29th July 2021, 7:00 am
Picture Michael Gillen. Forth Valley Royal Hospital exterior.

The hospital has been struggling to hit waiting time targets, particularly in A&E and psychological services.

Chief executive Cathie Cowans told a meeting of Forth Valley NHS’s board on Tuesday that the waiting times were a result of very high numbers – and lots of people presenting in need of significant care from the NHS.

She said: “In June this year compared to last year, we saw an extra 1550 patients.

“I know people might say how can you compare last year with this but we are still in a pandemic, so these numbers are significant.

“And I would have to say that the people presenting are actually presenting quite unwell, so that is impacting on our ability to turn people around.”

“Sometimes at this time of year we think the numbers are going up because people are out and about, coming of their bicycles or having bumps – but we’re actually seeing people present with a need for admission.”

Director of nursing, Professor Angela Wallace, added that there had been messages telling people not to turn up to A&E – and sometimes people who should be attending weren’t.

Earlier this month a hospital statement urged people to help the ‘very busy’ department by “only attending if you require emergency care.”

Professor Wallace said: “Often it’s the people we really need to see most who are the people who think ‘I’ll not bother the NHS’.”

Others had stayed away from the hospital because they were worried about symptoms.

“What we are seeing is people coming in often very unwell and with Covid as a secondary illness, rather than being symptomatic.

“We are also definitely seeing people who have had symptoms and are not keen to come and when they come in we’re picking diseases which have advanced in that space, cancers in particular, but other diseases that people have been managing without wanting to bother us.”

The board was discussing the issues that have been highlighted in a ‘scorecard’ designed to show how Forth Valley NHS is coping with a return to normal services.

It revealed that in June, a total of 1297 patients waited longer than the four-hour target across both the emergency department and Minor Injuries Unit (MIU); with 58 waits longer than eight hours and nine waits longer than 12 hours.

In total, 962 patients waited beyond four hours for a first assessment.

There are also pressure points in scheduled care services as they attempt to clear a backlog caused by the pandemic as well as manage new cases.

In June 2021, the number waiting for a first outpatient appointment increased to 16,952 although the number waiting beyond 12 weeks reduced to 7547. The number of inpatients/day cases waiting increased to 2891 with the number waiting beyond 12 weeks reducing to 1423.

Forth Valley’s long-running problem with poor waiting times for psychological therapies also continues to be of concern.

In June this year, 59 per cent of adult patients and 59.5 per cent of those referred to the Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) started treatment within 18 weeks of referral.

Board members were told that an improvement plan for CAMHS is being put in place with Scottish Government approval.