More than 30% of patients in Scotland’s NHS accident and emergency service waited for over four hours to be seen, new figures indicate.
Statistics published by Public Health Scotland (PHS) show that during the week ending February 20 this year, 69.8% of attendees at A&E services were seen and subsequently admitted, transferred or discharged within that time.
It is below the Scottish Government’s target of 95%, which has not been met since July 2020.
In all, there were 23,331 attendances at A&E services in NHS Scotland.
A total of 1749 patients spent more than eight hours in an A&E department, whilst 627 patients spent more than 12 hours.
Monthly figures published by PHS showed that during January 2022, there were 110,626 attendances at A&E services in Scotland.
Of those, 76% were seen and resulted in a subsequent admission, transfer or discharge within four hours.
A total of 6682 (6.2%) patients spent more than eight hours in an A&E department, whilst 2266 (2.1%) patients spent more than 12 hours.
The Scottish Government has said that NHS staff continue to face “unprecedented pressures” as they work to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.
Scottish Conservative health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane criticised health secretary Humza Yousaf and the SNP for leaving A&E departments “stretched beyond breaking point” due to poor workforce planning.
“These woeful figures are both a tragedy and a damning indictment of the health secretary because we know the consequences of them will be more avoidable deaths,” he said.
“Last week, the Royal College of Emergency Medicine estimated that 500 people died needlessly in Scotland in 2021 because of delays to being seen in A&E.
“That’s why it’s so alarming to hear that over 30% of patients weren’t assessed within four hours and utterly unacceptable that thousands more waited more than eight hours or over a half a day to be seen.
“The blame for this lies squarely with the SNP. Their poor workforce planning has left A&E departments stretched beyond breaking point and consistently unable to handle the number of patients attending.
“And, as the recent Audit Scotland report on Scotland’s NHS indicated, Humza Yousaf’s Covid Recovery Plan simply isn’t up to tackling the problem.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton urged Yousaf to “stop hiding behind the pandemic” as he called for the health secretary to deliver radical action immediately.
“These numbers are shocking. Let’s be clear, this is what 15 years of SNP mismanagement, poor workforce planning and lack of vision produced. Exhausted staff and patients waiting interminable queues,” he said.
“It is unacceptable that almost one third of patients are not seen within four hours. Last week, the Royal College of Emergency Medicine estimated that in 2021, 500 people had died while waiting to be seen in A&E.
“The SNP/Green government voted down our staff burnout prevention strategy, and still haven’t responded to our proposals for a health and social care staff assembly. They are watching this crisis go by without doing what is needed.
“NHS patients and staff are in dire need of new hope. The health secretary must stop hiding behind the pandemic and deliver the immediate radical action that is so needed.”
Scottish Labour health spokesperson Jackie Baillie accused the SNP of incompetence on a “staggering scale”.
“The SNP’s catastrophic failure to re-start our NHS has led to a state of perpetual crisis becoming the new normal in Scotland’s NHS,” she said.
“Frontline staff have warned Humza Yousaf for months over the need for more support, but he has turned his back on the staff and the patients that they treat.
“One in eight Scots are on waiting lists, delayed discharge is rising and A&E continues to have challenging waiting times.
“The staff are working incredibly hard but this is incompetence on a staggering scale from the SNP Government which is endangering the lives of thousands of Scots.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson pointed to the performance of A&Es in Scotland in contrast to that in the rest of the UK.
“NHS staff continue to face unprecedented pressures as they work to respond to the pandemic whilst continuing to provide vital treatment and optimal patient care,” they said.
“Monthly figures published this week show Scotland has 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.
“During this period more than three-quarters of patients were seen within the four-hour target and this is reflective of the series of measures implemented to minimise pressures across our A&E services.”
The spokesperson outlined the impact on weekly performance brought by the pandemic.
They said: “Weekly performance continues to be impacted by the direct and indirect impacts of the pandemic such as capacity issues contributed to by staff absence and reduced beds due to infection control requirements.
“Hospitals continue to report high numbers of patients presenting who are acutely unwell leading to a longer length of time spent in hospital and impacting on flow.
“We continue to working closely with our health board colleagues and their partners and are monitoring the situation closely.”