Almost a third of patients attending A&E departments in the first week of 2022 waited more than four hours before being assessed – the worst figure on record.
Some 32.6% of the 21,163 patients attending A&E in the first week of the year waited more than four hours before they were admitted to hospital, transferred or discharged, according to new statistics published by Public Health Scotland on Tuesday.
The Scottish Government’s target of 95% of patients being attended to within four hours has not been met since July 2020 and the 67.4% seen in that time during the week ending January 9 is the lowest ever recorded.
Of the 6902 patients who waited longer than four hours, 2079 waited over eight hours and 690 people spent more than 12 hours at A&E before being seen.
Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary Dr Sandesh Gulhane said: “These worst-ever A&E stats are a shameful indictment of Humza Yousaf’s inept stewardship of Scotland’s NHS.
“The tragic reality is that these delays lead to needless loss of life. How many wake-up calls does the Health Secretary need before he finally devises a coherent strategy to tackle the unacceptable emergency waiting times in Scotland?
Yet his responses feel like a rearranging of the deckchairs on The Titanic. Instead of the detailed action plan we crave, we get desperate pleas for patients to go to GPs rather than A&E.
“This has simply added to the crisis in general practice – as we saw with the partial suspension of GP services in NHS Lanarkshire last week – while having no apparent effect on our emergency wards, which are beyond breaking point.”
Earlier this month, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde issued an urgent appeal to the public asking them not to attend A&E unless it is “life threatening”.
Scotland’s largest health board said it was experiencing an “unprecedented and unsustainable demand on emergency services”.
Meanwhile, NHS Lanarkshire urged families who have relatives in hospital to bring them home if they are no longer receiving treatment.
Scottish Labour health spokesperson Jackie Baillie said the new A&E figures released on Tuesday represent a “deeply worrying development and it is clear that thousands of lives are being put in danger”.
She added: “Week after week we have seen all-time lows in A&E services but the SNP government has failed to act.
“NHS staff are working incredibly hard, especially as the winter pressures start to bite, but they are being badly failed by a government that is not adequately supporting them in their efforts to keep the people of Scotland safe.
“The cabinet secretary’s lack of action in the face of this crisis has been nothing short of a dereliction of duty. “This is unacceptable – action is needed now to stop lives being lost.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton described the figures as “shocking”.
He said: “People are waiting too long to get care and treatment. NHS staff are under unimaginable pressure and working in impossible conditions. It harms the mental and physical wellbeing of staff as well as patients. This is not sustainable.
“It begs the question why SNP and Green MSPs last week voted down my party’s proposal for an urgent Burnout Prevention Strategy for NHS staff. Services and key workers need that added protection but got none.
“It is time the health secretary took immediate measures to help our NHS. Staff, patients and families have had enough.”
The Scottish Government has been contacted for comment.