One in eight people are on some form of waiting list for hospital treatment in Scotland, according to the latest figures.
Data from Public Health Scotland (PHS) revealed an additional 28,000 had been added to pending treatment waitlists in the first three months of 2022.
Those awaiting planned procedures such as hip replacements had increased by more than a third during the Covid-19 pandemic, while one in nine have spent more than a year without undergoing care.
The Scottish Government said the pausing of elective procedures during the shutdown and the outbreak of the Omicron and BA.2 subvariants had “added to existing significant pressure” on health services.
But opponents have accused health secretary Humza Yousaf of allowing waiting lists to “spiral out of control” warning the NHS faces a “summer crisis” unless the backlog is tackled.
A total of 421,561 patients were waiting for an outpatient appointment, while 131,620 were waiting for an inpatient appointment according to the PHS stage of treatment report on May 31.
A further 155,405 remain on the list for eight key diagnostic tests – a rise of 10% from the last analysis in December last year.
Scottish Government targets list 95% of new outpatients should wait no longer than 12 weeks from referral to being seen, but more than half had their appointments delayed beyond that limit.
Scottish Conservative shadow cabinet secretary for health, Dr Sandesh Gulhane MSP, branded the figures “deeply concerning” adding medics had been “completely overwhelmed” by patient numbers since the country emerged from the worst of the pandemic.
He said: “Any delay to starting treatment for a patient will only prolong the suffering they are enduring and in worst case scenarios can lead to unnecessary deaths.
“It is astonishing that over half a million patients are still waiting for treatment and that figure is only heading the wrong direction.
“That must change urgently otherwise Humza Yousaf will be presiding over a summer crisis in our NHS.”
Around 24% have spent more a that year on waitlists while the numbers waiting over two years for treatment almost doubled to 10,613.
In February, Audit Scotland warned the government’s Covid recovery plan – which featured an extra £1bn investment to help tackle the backlog in care that built up during the pandemic – would be “challenging and take a long time to realise”.
It added the 28-page document was “stretching and difficult to deliver against the competing demands of the pandemic” and new plans including a national care service.
Scottish Labour health spokesperson Jackie Baillie said: “The SNP’s NHS Recovery plan has been left in tatters as waiting lists grow longer by the month, with one in eight people now left languishing on waiting lists while their condition declines.
“Our NHS is on life support and it is patients and hardworking staff who are paying the price. We cannot afford to waste any more time while lives are on the line.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Pausing of non-urgent activity during the pandemic has inevitably led to a build-up of numbers waiting for treatment, and the emergence of Omicron and the BA.2 subvariant in late 2021 has undoubtedly added to existing significant pressure.
“It is regrettable that we cannot mobilise at the scope and scale we all wish to see, but we have to balance competing demands and pressures, making the best decisions we can, none of which are easy nor taken lightly.
“We published an NHS Recovery Plan in August 2021, setting out our plans for health and social are over the next five years.
“Backed by over £1bn of funding, the Plan will support an increase in inpatient, daycase, and outpatient activity to address the backlogs of care, which will be supported by the implementation of sustainable improvements and new models of care. Implementation of the plan is a top priority.”