Health secretary Humza Yousaf has been urged to take urgent action to tackle the “spiralling crisis” over Scotland’s A&E waiting times.
It comes as statistics published on Tuesday revealed that almost a third of patients waited for four hours or more to be seen.
The Scottish Government’s target is to ensure that 95% of patients are seen and subsequently admitted or discharged within four hours.
However, the latest figures indicate that just 68% of those who attended met this standard during the week ending April 3.
The statistics also showed that 2483 patients spent more than eight hours in an A&E department, whilst 955 patients spent more than 12 hours in an A&E department.
The Scottish Government has pointed to the “unprecedented impact” of the coronavirus pandemic on services.
Scottish Conservative health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane MSP criticised Yousaf as he described waiting times as “totally unacceptable”.
“Sadly, it’s like Groundhog Day with these atrocious A&E stats – every week they seem to get worse and yet nothing seems to change,” he said.
“It’s totally unacceptable that almost a third of patients are having to wait four hours or more to be seen.
“The health secretary can’t continue to rely on his woefully-inadequate Covid Recovery Plan when this spiralling crisis is causing ever more lives to be needlessly lost despite the heroic efforts of overwhelmed NHS staff.
“The Royal College of Emergency Medicine could not have been clearer last week when they spelled out how dangerous and unsustainable the situation is on Scotland’s A&E wards.
“They, and the public, are crying out for an action plan from Humza Yousaf now – but his silence is deafening.”
Scottish Labour health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said A&E is getting “stuck in a state of permanent crisis”.
She added: “We desperately need real leadership from the government, but the health secretary spends more time commenting on the crisis than fixing it.
“We need urgent action to end delayed discharge and increase the number of hospital beds which will help to get A&E back on its feet and save lives.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader and health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton called for an inquiry into the issue.
He said: “NHS patients and staff are in dire need of new hope. We urgently need new resources and a renewed focus from the health secretary.
“Patients and staff also deserve answers as to how this crisis has been allowed to continue for so long, we must have an inquiry into all avoidable deaths connected to this crisis.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The latest weekly figures show more than two-thirds of patients are being seen within the four-hour target in our A&E departments, despite the unprecedented impact of the pandemic on services and with record levels of patients in hospital with Covid.
“While we expect these pressures will continue to impact performance over the next couple of weeks, we are now seeing indications that Covid levels are starting to fall which will hopefully ease pressure on hospital services.
“The recent changes to the infection prevention and control guidance, which should allow Boards to de-escalate some of the enhanced infection prevention and control measures safely, should also help ease pressures on hospitals and improve patient flows.
“We continue to work closely with our health board colleagues and their partners and are monitoring the situation closely.”
The spokesperson continued: ““For many A&E will not be the right place for their healthcare need. People should consider whether their condition is an emergency, such as a stroke, heart attack or major trauma, before going to A&E.
“Local GPs can be contacted during the day for non-critical care, as well as local pharmacies. If you think you need A&E but it is not an emergency NHS 24 telephone service is available on 111.
“Scotland continues to have the best performing A&Es in the UK, outperforming those in England, Wales and Northern Ireland for over six years.”