Scotland’s accident and emergency waiting times have matched their worst level on record.
Official statistics indicate that in the week ending April 10, just 66.2% of attendances at A&E services were seen and subsequently admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours.
However, it is well below the Scottish Government’s target of 95%, with the figure reaching the same level as it did in the week up to March 20.
In total, there were 22,774 attendances at A&E services in Scotland during the latest period, with 7705 patients spending longer than four hours in an A&E department.
Meanwhile, 2373 patients spent more than eight hours in an A&E department, and a total of 944 patients spent more than 12 hours.
NHS Forth Valley recorded the lowest level of people seen within four hours (54.7%).
It was followed by NHS Lanarkshire and NHS Borders, which recorded levels of 58.7% and 60.7% respectively.
The Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow dealt with 42.1% of patients in A&E within the target time – the lowest proportion of any hospital in Scotland.
The Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh also saw just under half (49.9%) of patients within four hours.
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “The Covid-19 pandemic continues to put pressure on hospitals and this week’s performance against the four-hour A&E measure was 66.2%.
“However, the figure is likely to be an undercount and direct weekly comparisons are difficult as NHS Highland was unable to submit complete data due to a technical issue.
“We continue to see high levels of Covid transmission and people in our hospitals with the virus, but there are some indications that numbers are stabilising.
“Hospitals face capacity issues as a result of high demand and staff absence while the high number of patients presenting acutely unwell is leading to longer stays.”
She added: “NHS staff have worked incredibly hard during the pandemic and they have our thanks for the care they continue to provide the people of Scotland.
“Today the Scottish Government has announced that health boards have recruited more than 1000 additional healthcare support staff and almost 200 registered nurses from overseas to help address the unprecedented challenges facing health services.
“Arrangements are in place to recruit a further 203 overseas nurses.”
Scottish Conservative health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane hit out at the “appalling” workforce planning by the Scottish Government.
“These horrendous A&E figures, the joint worst on record, demand immediate action from the health secretary, but I fear we’ll get the now familiar sound of silence from Humza Yousaf,” he said.
“It’s completely unacceptable that more than one third of patients are having to wait over four hours to be seen, because these excess delays lead, tragically, to avoidable deaths.
“We’re past the recent peak of Covid infections so the number of NHS staff absences ought to be easing. But the problem is that the SNP Government’s appalling workforce planning means there is no slack in the system, and so there are staff shortages across Scotland’s NHS and, especially, in our emergency wards.
“A&E, like our health service generally, is on its knees and yet the SNP’s only solution for the crisis is the health secretary’s flimsy Covid Recovery Plan, which simply isn’t cutting it. Patients and shattered staff deserve so much better.”
Scottish Labour health spokesperson Jackie Baillie called for urgent action to help support A&E services.
“Barely a week goes by without performance falling to record lows somewhere in our NHS,” she said.
“A&E services have been in critical condition for months now, but the SNP have failed to act.
“Heroic NHS staff are working tirelessly to keep things running and keep patients safe, but there is only so much that can be done to paper over the cracks of SNP failure.”
Baillie added: “Lives are at stake here – we cannot let this chaos become the new normal in our emergency rooms.
“The SNP must act now to support A&E services and tackle problems like delayed discharge, which are piling pressure on to services.”
Dr John Thomson, Royal College of Emergency Medicine Scotland vice president, warned that the emergency care system has “never faced a crisis worse than this”.
“We are continuing to see severely poor performance in the emergency care system. Staff are becoming more and more burnt out, the appalling crisis in emergency care is seriously distressing,” he said.
“The public are extremely worried about these long waiting times, and rightly so, because patients are coming to harm.
“Staff continue doing all they can to deliver care and keep patients safe, but it is incredibly challenging.
“It is a desperate situation, a result of widespread shortages of staff and beds throughout the system and a crisis in social care.”
Dr Thomson insisted that the Scottish Government cannot let the situation “deteriorate further”.
“Despite exiting winter and entering spring, the situation remains dire. We have never faced a crisis worse than this,” he continued.
“The intense workload is breaking staff, and the distressing circumstances are breaking their morale.
“Patients continue to face seriously long waits, and we continue to state that this crisis is worse than ever, and that patients are coming to harm.
“The Government cannot let this deteriorate further, staff and patients urgently need meaningful action now to tackle the desperate situation in emergency care and address the widespread staff shortages, the bed shortages, and the social care crisis.”