Opposition parties at Holyrood have called for Humza Yousaf to be immediately sacked as health secretary as official figures showed that the Government’s A&E waiting times target has again been missed.
Ministers set a goal of ensuring that 95% of patients seen at A&E are either admitted or discharged within four hours.
However, the target has been consistently missed, with figures falling well short of the 95% aim.
Public Health Scotland (PHS) statistics indicate that as of December 11, only 62.4% of people who went to A&E were seen and subsequently admitted or discharged within that time.
It is slightly down on the 63% in the previous week, but PHS said that NHS Shetland was unable to submit their data for the week to December 11 and therefore, the total figure would be an undercount.
A total of 25,956 people in Scotland attended A&E departments across the country in the latest figures.
Of those, 3,048 spent more than eight hours in an emergency department, with 1,153 patients spending more than 12 hours there.
Scottish Conservative health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane hit out at Yousaf’s handling of Scotland’s NHS.
And he described his time as health secretary as “nothing short of a disaster”, as he called for his sacking.
“With each passing week, Humza Yousaf continues to preside over complete chaos in our A&E departments,” he said.
“It simply should not be accepted that it is now the norm that well over a third of patients are not being seen within four hours.
“That is the reality for suffering patients due to Humza Yousaf’s flimsy recovery plans and lack of leadership, despite the continued best efforts of dedicated staff.
“Every day, lives are being put on the line on his watch in our A&E departments.
“We also now know, thanks to the UK Statistics Authority, that this data is inconsistent which undermines the reliability of the information the health secretary uses to try and defend his woeful performance.
“His tenure as health secretary has been nothing short of a disaster and Nicola Sturgeon must sack him immediately.”
Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson, also joined calls for Yousaf to be removed as health secretary.
Baillie added that the SNP are “clearly not fit” to run the health service in Scotland.
She said: “The SNP promised to get a handle on this crisis before we faced the worst pressures of the winter.
“Instead, we are facing Christmas chaos in our A&E despite the tireless efforts of staff.
“The increased pressure of winter on our NHS should have been anticipated, but A&E performance is not getting any better and this government is doing nothing to support staff.”
Baillie added: “The SNP has had months to tackle this crisis and have made absolutely no progress. They are clearly not fit to run our NHS.
“It’s clear that Humza Yousaf has entirely failed as Cabinet secretary for health. What Scotland needs for Christmas is a new health minister.”
Yousaf pointed to a number of factors that had contributed to the challenges facing the NHS in winter.
He said: “Pandemic backlogs, inflation costs and Brexit-influencing staff shortages have all contributed to make this winter the most challenging the NHS has ever faced.
“In addition, we are seeing increases in flu, Covid and Strep A, as well as other winter viruses, putting significant pressure on already-stretched services.
“We are doing all we can to support services through this highly pressurised period.”
The health secretary has stated that emergency care is always available for those who need it.
However, he has urged people who believe they may need to attend for a non-emergency to contact NHS24.
He continued: “Delayed discharge continues to have a major impact in driving up A&E waits and we are working with health boards to ensure people leave hospital without delay, freeing up vital beds for those who need them most.
“Our £600m winter plan will see us recruit 1,000 new NHS staff and our £50m urgent and unscheduled care collaborative looks to drive down A&E waits through hospital at home and our out-patient antimicrobial therapy service, which allows patients to be treated at home or in the community.”