Labour has launched a fresh attack on the Scottish Government over its management of the NHS, claiming hospitals that are failing to meet accident and emergency waiting times and those where inspectors have raised concerns about cleanliness are symptoms of a “nationwide complex problem” across the health service.
Holyrood health spokeswoman Jenny Marra hit out at the SNP on the same day as hospital inspectors revealed they had raised concerns about cleanliness in the A&E unit at Kirkcaldy’s Victoria Hospital with the Scottish Government.
A team from the Healthcare Environment Inspectorate found dusty equipment as well as trolleys and chairs contaminated by blood and body fluids.
Concerns were also raised about dirty equipment in the intensive care unit, including intravenous pumps and syringe drivers that were ”visibly contaminated” with blood, medication, and dust.
Yesterday it was announced that the Scottish Government has sent in a specialist support team to help improve A&E waiting times at the Royal Alexandra Hospital (RAH) in Paisley.
Ms Marra said while that was “welcome”, the problems at the hospital were not an “isolated incident”.
The Labour MSP said: ” The extra support heading towards the Royal Alexandra Hospital is welcome, but it is overdue. We have been telling the Health Secretary and the First Minister for weeks that our A&Es are under extreme pressure, but it has taken them weeks to take action.”
She claimed: “T his isn’t an isolated incident, the SNP cannot simply try to solve problems in Paisley when Glasgow, Fife and departments up and down the country face similar pressures seeing patients and finding beds for them in our hospitals.”
Ms Marra also said the inspectors’ report on “dirty equipment in the Victoria Hospital’s A&E department is very alarming”.
She stated: ” Last week the head of BMA Scotland warned that the NHS was operating on the goodwill of staff, and if the staffing crisis isn’t dealt with, the NHS could fall apart.
“This is not a problem in one hospital; this is a nationwide complex problem which the SNP have allowed to build up over years of simply managing the NHS on a day-to-day basis.”
Ms Marra continued: ” The NHS is special to every man, woman and child in Scotland. It is there for us in times of need, of sorrow and of joy. Scottish Labour has pledged 1,000 extra nurses paid for by a UK wide mansion tax to start to solve the staffing shortages in the health service.
“I hope the teams are able to ease pressure in Paisley’s A&E so patients can get the treatment they need as quickly as possible.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon conceded it had been a ”challenging winter” for A&E departments as she insisted sending in unscheduled care managers to work with staff at the RAH was a “responsible move”.
Ms Sturgeon said hospitals have had to cope with large numbers of elderly people turning up at A&E departments ”perfectly legitimately” who require to be admitted for treatment, often for severe illnesses.
The First Minister told BBC Radio Scotland: “Why w e’ve taken the action of sending a support team into the Royal Alexandra Hospital is because we are concerned we’re not seeing the degree of recovery in that hospital that we are seeing at other hospitals and that we would be expecting.
”It’s a responsible move, we will have unscheduled care managers from the Scottish Government in there to help the management on the ground look at different ways of speeding up the flow of patients through A&E, and doing what is most important of all – making sure patients get the quick access to treatment that they deserve.”
Meanwhile Health Secretary Shona Robison said the report into standards at the Victoria Hospital was “extremely disappointing”.
Ms Robison said: “The inspectors uncovered simply unacceptable levels of cleanliness and infection control in certain wards and specifically within the A&E department. Hospital cleanliness and infection control compliance is paramount in preventing and reducing the spread of infection. Clearly standards here have fallen well short of what patients and the public rightly expect.”
She added: ” The health board have put in place a robust action plan to address the issues the inspectors have highlighted and this must be delivered urgently.”
Ms Robison said she accepted that more needs to be done in A&E departments, and lessons should be learned from the best-performing health boards.
She added: “Labour’s hypocrisy on the NHS knows no bounds. When they were in power, they didn’t routinely publish any hospital infection stats, nor any routine treatment time stats, and they left 35,000 patients languishing on hidden waiting lists indefinitely without any right to treatment.
“Since the SNP took power, we have abolished Labour’s hidden waiting lists, treatment times have improved substantially and healthcare acquired infection rates have fallen by around 80%.”