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There is perhaps no bigger single identifiable contributing factor to cases of medical negligence in Scotland than unsustainable pressure on health services. When demand exceeds capacity things become stretched, standards can fall and, ultimately, it is patients who find they may suffer – and so, too, in turn, do taxpayers, who ultimately fund the NHS and the extra burden placed on it by compensation claims.

So, it is a little worrying to read that there has been a minor fall in the number of patients being seen at Scottish A&E departments within four hours.

The figure might seem arbitrary, but it is the Scottish Government that has set a target of ensuring that 98% of A&E patients are seen within four hours, and the figure of 91% for the week ending April 5 falls well short of this, as does the previous week's figure of 91.7%, even factoring in the government's "transitional" target of 95%.

Of course, there are always going to be fluctuations in the figures and the odd dip is to be expected, but given that statistics for the week ending February 22 showed only 86.1% of patients being seen within the four hour target, it is clear that the overall trend paints a picture of a health service falling well short of meeting its minimum standards. Plus, it would be impossible to argue that such failings are unconnected to the many millions of pounds in medical negligence compensation claims paid out by the NHS in Scotland each year. Better care and enhanced investment are necessary from the outset.

Health Secretary Shona Robison has been keen to thank NHS staff for the slight improvement in the figure as well as to underline such investment as the "£5m from the £31.5m Performance Fund to support improvement across NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde" in order "to relieve pressure at the front door of the hospital".

This, of course, is the key issue: strong and prudent investment in the NHS instead of poorer services and higher incidences of medical negligence. Good old prevention rather than cure.


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