The number of people waiting at A&E for more than 12 hours has again reached the highest figure on record.
Some 1015 people waited more than half a day in the week ending March 20, according to official figures from Public Health Scotland, rising from 747 the week before – an increase of 35%.
The Scottish Government aims to ensure 95% of people who attend A&E are seen and subsequently discharged or admitted to hospital within 12 hours.
The figure under this metric for the same week was also a record low at 66.2% of the 25,506 attendances at emergency departments.
The number of people waiting more than eight hours was also the highest on record at 2615.
The week covered by the figures was one that health secretary Humza Yousaf said could be one of the hardest for the health service from the beginning of the pandemic.
“The unprecedented impact of the pandemic is continuing to take its toll on our NHS and these latest figures continue to underline the extent of the pressure on services,” he said.
“We are currently seeing record high levels of Covid transmission and more people in our hospitals with Covid than at any time during the pandemic and this rise in recent weeks has inevitably had an impact on services like A&E.”
The chief nursing officer, Yousaf said, was undergoing a review of current coronavirus-related restrictions in hospitals with a view to reducing the pressure on hospitals.
“Scotland continues to have the best performing A&Es in the UK. In fact, Scotland’s A&Es have outperformed those in England, Wales and Northern Ireland for over six years,” the Health Secretary added.
Scottish Tory health spokesman, Dr Sandesh Gulhane, said: “These worst ever A&E waiting time figures are simply atrocious. They are a damning indictment of Humza Yousaf’s time as Health Secretary and ought to shame the SNP Government.
“We know excess waits inevitably lead to needless deaths. So, for more than one in three patients to be waiting over four hours, and 1,000-plus patients in just one week having to wait more than half a day, is hugely alarming.
“Scotland’s emergency wards are beyond breaking point. Two of our largest health boards are pleading with patients not to attend A&E unless their condition is life-threatening.”
He added: “It’s now more than six months since Humza Yousaf’s patently inadequate Covid recovery plan was published, yet we’ve still seen no plan B for tackling the ever-growing A&E waiting times.
“Overworked frontline NHS staff and worried patients should not have to accept this perpetual crisis.”
Scottish Labour deputy leader, Jackie Baillie, said the figures exposed a “record-breaking failure in A&E”.
“Staff are working tirelessly but they are being completely failed by Humza Yousaf and his SNP Government,” she said.
“Thousands of lives are now being risked in A&E departments on a weekly basis – this is completely unacceptable.
“Experts have warned that hundreds of lives have been lost due to the crisis in A&E.
“It’s about time that Humza Yousaf realised that he is a Government minister and not a commentator on this crisis.
“Humza Yousaf must act to support NHS services before more lives are needlessly lost.”