Queen Elizabeth University Hospital
Credit: Wikimedia Commons / George Allison

Glasgow A&E wait times surge to all-time highs

By Rothery Sullivan

Wait times in Glasgow accident and emergency units are at an all time high due to staff shortages and delayed discharges.

At The Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH), 65% of patients now have to wait over four hours to be seen. 

Between 13-20 November, over 1100 people waited for over four hours to be treated at a Glasgow A&E; 10% of these people waited more than 12 hours. These wait times are at the highest they’ve been since A&E records began. 

The issue of A&E wait times is not new. In October, two patients died in the A&E waiting room at QEUH, both from heart attacks. Although QEUH established a rule that all new arrivals must be assessed for the seriousness of their case within 15 minutes of arrival, this is not always possible. In response to the deaths, a spokesman for Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board stated, “Our staff are working extremely hard at a time of considerable pressure and they are doing their very best to prioritise care to patients most in need.” 

The percentage of A&E attendances resulting in hospital admission has also shrunk this past year compared to the previous. In 2021, the average admission percentage at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary was roughly 26.8%. So far in 2022, however, this has dropped to roughly 23.5%. Of those going to the A&E, about 3.3% fewer are being admitted to hospital.

The long wait times and lower hospital admission rates are affecting Glasgow students, and the waiting conditions have been described as “poor”. This past week, a Glasgow student, Zoi, told The Glasgow Guardian that she waited over 18 hours to be assessed by a healthcare professional at QEUH. After a collapse and potential seizure, her GP referred her to the QEUH A&E. Zoi told The Glasgow Guardian: “They offered to call an ambulance but said that it would take two to three hours for it to come. My friend called me an Uber and when I got to A&E, a nurse said I had a GP referral so I was sent to the Immediate Assessment Unit instead.” 

During her overnight wait, Zoi was not provided with any sleeping arrangements. Zoi noted, “People were pulling the chairs together just to have somewhere to sleep. Eventually, they offered everyone beds except me. They just completely ignored me.” 

Around 6am – approximately 12 hours after arriving at QEUH – Zoi was seen by a doctor for a quick examination. Upon examining Zoi, the doctor informed her that she wanted to run more tests, and that Zoi would need to see a consultant who would arrive at 8am. 

It wasn’t until 12:30pm that Zoi was seen by the consultant – approximately 18 hours after her arrival at QEUH. According to Zoi, after less than 10 minutes with the consultant he stated, “there’s nothing wrong with you, you can leave. You’re young and healthy”. Zoi explained that he refused to run any further tests despite the previous doctor’s recommendations.

Zoi told The Glasgow Guardian that she felt “ignored” and “under prioritised” while waiting to be seen. She also noted that the long wait times she endured were likely due to staffing shortages as there was only one nurse and one doctor on duty in the whole unit that evening until the morning shift staff arrived. 

A spokesperson for NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde explained that, “delayed discharges…add to higher than normal occupancy levels within hospitals, which adds to pressure on the front door as patients wait for available bed space within wards.” The spokesperson also noted the severe impact of staffing shortages on hospital bed turnover. 


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