Just 68.1% of patients in Scotland’s A&E departments were seen within four hours, new figures show.
Statistics from Public Health Scotland, covering the week up to April 17, show an increase from 66.6% the week before.
The Scottish Government aims to ensure at least 95% of patients are seen and subsequently admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours – a target that has not been hit since July 2020.
Emergency departments have struggled in recent months, with the figure not rising above 80% since late December.
Of the 23,880 referrals, 855 people were in hospital for more than 12 hours, 2,159 waited more than eight hours and 7,616 waited more than four hours.
Scottish Tory health spokesman, Dr Sandesh Gulhane, said the figures were “soul-destroying” for healthcare staff and the public.
“We’re almost into May and way past the latest peak of Covid infection rates, so we’d expect to see waiting times improving markedly,” he added
“Yet, due to chronic workforce planning by the SNP Government, they remain stubbornly dire – and lives are being needlessly lost as a result.
“The Health Secretary can’t just stand back and accept a situation where virtually a third of people are having to wait more than four hours to be seen in an emergency ward – but that is what appears to be happening.
“When is the penny going to drop and (Health Secretary) Humza Yousaf realise that his flimsy Covid Recovery Plan isn’t up to the scale of the crisis our A&E wards face?”
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “The latest weekly figures show an improvement in performance in our A&E departments with more than two-thirds of patients being seen within the four-hour target, despite the unprecedented impact of the pandemic on services.
“We continue to see high levels of Covid transmission and people in our hospitals with the virus. As these numbers begin to ease we expect to see improvements in performance.
“Hospitals continue to face capacity issues as a result of high demand, staff absence and reduced beds due to infection control requirements, while high numbers of patients presenting who are acutely unwell is leading to a longer length of time spent in hospital and impacting on flow.
“For many, A&E will not be the right place for their healthcare need. People should consider whether their condition is an emergency, such as a stroke, heart attack or major trauma, before going to A&E.
“Local GPs can be contacted during the day for non-critical care, as well as local pharmacies. The NHS 24 telephone service is available on 111 for non-emergency inquiries.”
Scottish Lib Dem leader, Alex Cole-Hamilton, called on the Scottish Government to drop its preparations for another independence referendum to focus on the health service.
According to freedom of information requests, 11 civil servants are working on a new prospectus for an independent Scotland, while the Scottish Government remains committed to submitting legislation for another referendum to be held in 2023.
“Staff have been working flat out, they have nothing more to give,” the Lib Dem leader said.
“This complacent government was already pushing them to their limits pre-pandemic when targets were missed for years on end. The SNP have failed our NHS.
“This is why the SNP/Green Government were wrong to vote down Scottish Liberal Democrat proposals for an urgent Burnout Prevention Strategy.
“The Health Secretary must also now admit the need for an inquiry into avoidable deaths linked to the crisis in emergency care. People deserve to know why ministers have not fixed this crisis.
“Frontline staff need extra protection, patients need new hope and everyone needs ministers, and a government, who are actually focused on what really matters right now.”
Scottish Labour deputy leader, Jackie Baillie, said the NHS was “on life support”, adding: “These damning figures lay bare the scale of the challenge our NHS is up against.
“Despite the tireless work of incredible NHS staff, the SNP’s lack of leadership is taking its toll across the board.
“Week after week our A&E remains in crisis, with thousands of people facing unacceptable waits.”
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