Accident and emergency attendances are at their highest since before coronavirus was discovered in Scotland, the latest NHS figures reveal.
The last week in May saw 26,115 Scots attend an A&E department, the most since the final week of February 2020.
Of those, 85.7.% were seen and admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours – below the Scottish Government target of 95%.
The figures, published by Public Health Scotland, also show 410 patients spent more than eight hours waiting to be seen at an A&E department, while a further 109 patients waited longer than 12 hours.
In the first month of the Covid-19 pandemic, when Scotland was put into lockdown, A&E patient numbers plummeted to a record low of 11,059.
Attendances gradually increased to a summer high of 24,050 in mid-August, before dropping back below 16,000 in January during the second wave of Covid-19 when restrictions were at their strictest.
But since the end of January, A&E attendances have increased in all but four weeks.
Commenting on the latest figures, the Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson, Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP, said: “The burden on A&E services is only going to rise as more of society opens up again.
“We need an urgent action plan to ensure that services are not overrun. NHS staff have gone above and beyond the call of duty over the past 18 months.
“Now the Scottish Government need to ensure that they have the support and resources they need to get services back on track.
“The A&E target being missed was practically a weekly occurrence before the pandemic. Just going back to how things were is not good enough.
“The new Health Secretary needs to commit to driving down waiting times and ensuring that Scots no longer have to sit in pain for hours on end.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The Covid pandemic has inevitably affected A&E attendance. But as restrictions begin to relax we are seeing a rise in non-Covid attendances and admissions.
“We are encouraging people to consider options closer to home, by seeking medical advice online at NHS Inform, by calling NHS 24, their GP practice, or by contacting their local pharmacy who can also help and prescribe treatment.
“The Health Secretary has committed to produce a detailed NHS Recovery Plan within the first 100 days of the new administration. This will set out in detail how we intend to meet our ambition of reducing waiting times.
“A key component will be the Redesign of Urgent Care Programme which aims to ensure people are seen safely and to help the public access the right care in the right place at the right time.
“This national change to urgent care will help make sure A&E provides the fastest and most appropriate care for people when they really need it.”
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