NHS waiting lists reach record high in Scotland

Public Health Scotland released figures which showed the number of people waiting for treatment increased to 840,300.

NHS waiting lists reach record high in Scotland, Public Health Scotland figures show Getty Images

The number of people on NHS waiting lists has reached a record high in Scotland, according to new figures.

Statistics released by Public Health Scotland showed the number of people waiting for outpatient, inpatient or day case treatment, or one of the eight key diagnostic tests, increased to 840,300 as of March 31.

The report also concluded that there was more than 8,000 waits over two years – and 85,000 waits of over a year for either an outpatient appointment or to start treatment.

Of those waiting, 534,178 were waiting for outpatient treatment, up by 10% from the same point last year and more than double the size of the list before the pandemic, while for inpatient treatment, 156,108 were waiting – a slight decrease from the previous quarter, but more than double the average waiting times in 2019.

The figures also looked at the eight key diagnostic tests – including colonoscopies, CT scans and MRI scans – showing 150,014 people were still waiting as of March 31.

Weekly figures have also shown a rise in the number of patients waiting longer than the Scottish Government’s target time in accident and emergency departments.

Official data showed a small drop in the number of patients attending A&E who were seen and either admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours – with this down to 66.2% in the week ending May 19.

That is down from 67.2% the previous week and continues to be significantly below the Scottish Government target of having 95% of patients being treated within four hours.

Opposition parties have called out the Scottish Government’s handling of the waiting lists, after they previously claimed they would be spending £30m to resolve the issue.

Scottish Tory health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane said the backlog was “out of control”.

“Over 840,000 Scots are still waiting for crucial treatment or diagnostic tests, with many of them being forced to endure unacceptable waits of over a year or more,” he added.

“Humza Yousaf’s flimsy Covid recovery plan and the SNP’s dire workforce planning has left my frontline colleagues stretched to the limit and unable to deal with the surge in demand.

“Rather than obsessing over independence, the SNP should focus their efforts on tackling the crisis that is engulfing our NHS.”

Former First Minister Humza Yousaf.STV News

In July 2022, former health secretary and ex-First Minister Humza Yousaf laid out plans to “eradicate” long waits for treatment, including ending two-year waits for inpatient treatment by September of that, 18-month waits by September 2023 and those over a year by September 2024.

The cash was part of £300m the Scottish Government has promised to spend addressing backlogs in the health service over the next three years.

Public Health Scotland have said the targets “have yet to be achieved”, reporting that more than 7,000 people were still waiting more than two years and the number waiting more than 12 months stood at 37,761 – up 24.2% in the past year.

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “We are determined to ensure people receive the treatment they need as soon as possible.

“Scottish Government investment of £30m is being targeted at a series of national and local plans to reduce the national backlogs that built up throughout the pandemic.

“We are working with NHS Boards to reduce long waits, including the delivery of the commitments in our £1bn NHS recovery plan to support an increase in inpatient, day-case, and outpatient activity, and the creation of our national treatment centres (NTCs) programme – which is the single biggest increase in planned care capacity ever created in NHS Scotland.

“Two national treatment centres opened last year in Fife and Highland, with two further centres opening soon in Forth Valley and the Golden Jubilee, providing additional protected capacity for patients across Scotland.

“We know there are still unacceptable waits in some specialities, but we are making progress. Despite the exceptionally challenging winter period, the level of activity for inpatient and day case patients was at its highest since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in the latest quarter; the ninth increase in a row.

“The number of new outpatient attendances (completed waits) was also at its highest since the beginning of the pandemic, with 324,553 patients seen.”

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