The percentage of patients visiting accident and emergency wards who are seen within the four-hour target has fallen to the lowest level since the coronavirus lockdown in March.
New A&E waiting time figures from Public Health Scotland show that 86% of patients were seen in the target time despite attendances also dropping.
There were 19,669 visits to Scotland’s A&E departments in the final week of October and it is only the third time the figure has fallen below 20,000 since May.
Of those, 2,760 patients were not seen within the Scottish Government’s target of four hours.
The target for 95% of patients to be seen within that time was last met in the week ending July 5.
The latest Public Health Scotland statistics also reveal that 455 patients waited for more than eight hours to be admitted to A&E, transferred or discharged and 77 people waited more than 12 hours.
A&E attendance levels plummeted towards the start of the coronavirus pandemic, reaching a low of 11,059 patients in the week lockdown was imposed – down from a weekly February average of approximately 25,750 patients.
The drop triggered pleas from Scotland’s Health Secretary and chief medical officer for people to seek medical help if they need to and not ignore serious symptoms.
A gradual recovery saw A&E attendances reach a peak during the week ending August 23 when 24,050 patients attended A&E.
Since then, the official Public Health Scotland data shows a downward trend, with attendances dropping below 20,000 twice in the past three weeks.
Scottish Labour health spokeswoman Monica Lennon said: “Despite attendances at A&E being lower than last year, the pressure that Covid-19 is putting on frontline staff isn’t easing, resulting in longer waits for patients.
“The QEUH, Scotland’s largest hospital, is a cause for concern and we can see health boards under Level 3 restrictions are feeling the strain.
“Staff are working extremely hard under difficult circumstances and they need more support.
“Emergency medicine doctors have long been warning the Scottish Government to make more beds available.
“SNP ministers must act quickly to prevent a full-blown crisis in the NHS this winter.”
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: “The latest A&E waiting times figures show that 86% of people were seen and treated within four hours for the week ending November 1.
“Scotland’s core A&E departments are the best performing in the UK and have been for five years.
“This is with thanks to the ongoing hard work and dedication of staff in our NHS.
“On October 28, I announced plans to redesign urgent care to ensure people are seen safely during winter and to help the public access the right care in the right place at the right time.
“This national change to urgent care will be supported by £20 million of investment and will keep patients and staff safe by ensuring A&E departments provide the quickest and most appropriate care for people when they really need it.”
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