Praise For £30M A&E Funding

Investment of £30 million has brought about "substantial'' improvements in accident and emergency (A&E) care in Scotland, Health Secretary Alex Neil said.

Alex Neil stressed the NHS must "build on this initial progress'' over the next two years as he said there was "still work to be done'' on emergency care.

The money - £10 million from the Scottish Government and £20 million from local health boards - is the first slice of funding from the unscheduled care action plan.

Since the plan was introduced, there has been an 87% reduction in the number of patients waiting more than 12 hours in hospital A&E units, the Government said.

Figures showed that 93.5% of people in accident and emergency were treated within four hours in December last year - below the Government's interim target of 95% but up from 90.3% in December 2012.

In that month there were 323 cases in December where patients in A&E had to wait more than 12 hours.

Since then, health boards across Scotland have brought in new measures in a bid to improve unplanned care, including the creation of a special unit in NHS Forth Valley aimed at preventing frail elderly people from being admitted to hospital unnecessarily.

NHS Ayrshire and Arran has introduced a discharge hub in a bid to reduce delays for patients waiting to go home, while bosses at NHS Fife have recruited special "flow co-ordinators'' to improve how patients move through the healthcare system and reduce delays.

Earlier this month, public spending watchdogs at Audit Scotland revealed that the number of patients forced to wait too long in A&E departments had almost trebled in five years.

About 104,000 people waited beyond the standard four-hour target in 2012-13, compared with about 36,000 in 2008-9, Audit Scotland found in a new report.

Mr Neil paid tribute to NHS staff who "provide a remarkable service, day in, day out, to ensure that patients who have the most imminent need get access to the fastest possible treatment''.

The Health Secretary added: "That is why I am so pleased to see that our vital unscheduled care services both in and outwith hospitals have been supported by an additional #10 million in central funding and over £20 million from local investment, in the first year of our unscheduled care action.

"To see the range of improvements that has already come out of this investment is substantial and we must now build on this initial progress over the next two years.

"Each of these initiatives show the best of our NHS where it is supported to deliver new and creative ways to deliver better and faster care for the people of Scotland.

"Of course we all want performance to continue improving. We know that there is still work to be done to build in long-term sustainability of our emergency care.

"We will continue to work closely both with both boards and partners like the royal colleges.''