Scottish Government plan to combat A&E waiting times under threat in Scotland's biggest city

Ambulances queued outside the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital have been a sign of A& E chaos for years -Credit:Tony Nicoletti
Ambulances queued outside the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital have been a sign of A& E chaos for years -Credit:Tony Nicoletti

THE Scottish Government’s flagship policy to tackle chronic A & E waiting times may be axed by the country’s largest city next week.

And the abandonment of Hospital at Home in the city will add at least 15 patients to hospital inpatient departments and do nothing to ease congestion at the country’s biggest hospitals, Glasgow’s QEUH.

The latest figures show just a fraction over half of all patients arriving at A & E there are seen within the four-hour-target - way below the latest Scottish average of 67.4% and even further below the 95% target.

Successive Health Secretaries have looked to extending Hospital at Home services to ease congestion at hospital front doors and prevent ambulances queuing up outside for hours at a time.

But now Glasgow’s Integrated Joint Board proposes to axe the service - designed to reduce hospital admissions for elderly patients by providing acute treatments such in the comfort and familiarity of their own home.

In papers which were due to be discussed at the board meeting next week there is a clear plan to halt the service as part of a body of swingeing cuts and reductions in services which will save just under £14 million.

There will also be staff cuts and reductions in service to first responder services, the care home nursing team, psychology, learning disability, sexual health and adult mental health among others which will have a devastating effect on those who use them.

But it is the Hospital at Home threat which has raised the most eyebrows.

In the papers the IJB admits “all the evidence points to the success of this model” to sustain the safe and effective extension of the current and any future service, “significantly more investment is required which is currently not available from Health and Social Care Partnerships, Scottish Government or the Health Board”.

The IJB commissions health and social care services , The Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) delivers these on behalf of the IJB.

The report continues: “Even to sustain the limited level that this service operates at today, more clinical and professional oversight is required in the form of Lead Advanced Nurse Practitioners, Specialist GP sessions and additional

Registered Medical Officer cover (RMO). There is no additional funding to provide this.

“In the absence of any additional investment to sustain the current service level, or to extend and develop the service further, the Health and Social Care Partnership cannot support continuation of the service.”

And it admits: “The cessation of this service will result in an additional 15 patients requiring inpatient hospital care routinely.”

Labour’s heath spokeswoman Jackie Baillie branded the decision to axe the service “ an abandonment the most vulnerable”.

She said: “This devastating cut is nothing short of an abandonment of some of the most vulnerable in our society.

“Cutting a service that is proven to work will mean that more pressure will be heaped on to our hospitals which are already at breaking point.

“This is a wrongheaded cut that could endanger lives and the SNP government must step in and provide the resources so the decision can be reversed.”

Sean Clerkin, campaigning co-ordinator of the Scottish Tenants Organisation, said: “The implementation of these shortfall cuts to health service in the community and social care will devastate the lives of the poorest and most vulnerable in the City of Glasgow.

“It is unacceptable.

“To eliminate Hospital at Home services which allow severely ill people to remain at home with their loved ones is especially cruel.

“This is designed to secure a balanced budget at the expense of the sick and the poor.

“All councillors should demand that John Swinney as First Minister should provide extra resources to fund these lifeline services in Glasgow. Nothing else will suffice.”

A spokeswoman from Glasgow’s Health and Social Care Partnership said: ”An updated report will be available on Monday which will defer the decision on the Hospital at Home service until the June IJB meeting.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Decisions on how best to deliver services for local communities are for integration authorities to make, in consultation with people who use those services and in full awareness of the impact on them. This must be a continuous way of working that appropriately seeks to understand the needs of local people and how best to meet them.

“The Scottish Government officials are engaging with Glasgow’s IJB to work together to find solutions that not only address financial pressures but put the needs of local people, particularly those most vulnerable, at the centre.”