NHS Scotland has recorded its worst ever emergency department waiting times with just over half of patients seen within the four hour target set by the Scottish Government.
The latest figures show performance in Scotland’s emergency departments hit another another new low after a sharp spike in the number of people waiting more than 12 hours.
On Wednesday, Public Health Scotland (PHS) reported just 55% of people were seen and subsequently admitted, discharged or transferred within four hours in the week up to December 18.
The Scottish Government’s target is for 95% of those attending in A&E to be dealt with within four hours.
The statistics continues the trend that has seen the proportion of emergency department attendances being seen within the target time dropping since the summer of 2021.
The previous low, recorded in the week up to November 27, was recorded as 61.8%.
Scotland’s health secretary Humza Yousaf said the numbers were recorded during a cold snap, while flu and Strep A cases were on the rise.
Yousaf has faced calls to resign with the figures during his time in the role branded “catastrophic”.
The statistics showed an increase of almost 700 in the number of people waiting more than 12 hours in emergency departments, rising to 1,821 during that time period compared to 1,150 the week before.
More than 56,000 people have spent more than 12 hours waiting for treatment at Scottish accident and emergency departments since Yousaf was appointed health secretary.
The number of people waiting more than eight hours, in the week up to December 18, also increased by almost 1,500 – from 3,045 to 4,536 – while those waiting more than four hours increased from 9,758 to 11,887.
The number of attendances at A&E in that week stayed roughly similar to the figures of recent months, rising from 25,970 to 26,393.
Scottish Conservative health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane called on the First Minister to sack Yousaf “if only to restore a semblance of confidence in Scotland’s crisis-ridden NHS”.
“These new record lows – by every metric – are terrifying and cannot be allowed to continue, because excess A&E waits translate, inevitably and tragically, into needless loss of lives,” he said.
Dr Gulhane added: “This cannot go on. Even Nicola Sturgeon must realise we’re so far beyond the tipping point that, for the good of everyone, her health secretary has to go.”
Yousaf said that the NHS was facing one of the toughest winters in its 74-year history.
“The statistics are for one of the coldest periods for many years which put an increasing strain on the NHS,” he said.
“On top of that flu has been classified at extraordinary levels, with cases admitted to hospital the highest in five years.
“We also had to deal with rising cases of Strep A and other respiratory viruses which has resulted in significant demand on services.
“Covid has clearly still not gone away and these pressures, combined with pandemic backlogs, are making it a very challenging time for the NHS.”
The health secretary also said that delayed discharges – where people were well enough to leave hospital were being kept in for other reasons – was having a “major impact” on A&E waiting times, and work was being done to tackle the issue.
“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,” Yousaf added.
“Emergency care is always available for those who need it. However if you think you think you need to visit A&E, but it is not an emergency, you can contact NHS 24 where you may be referred to a more appropriate urgent care service.
“Local GPs and pharmacies can be also be contacted as a first port of call for non-critical care.”