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Number of patients on NHS waiting list increases as Labour warns of ‘disaster’

Labour has warned that the NHS is on the ‘brink of disaster’ as winter approaches (Jeff Moore/PA)
Labour has warned that the NHS is on the ‘brink of disaster’ as winter approaches (Jeff Moore/PA)

The number of patients waiting for an NHS procedure or test in Scotland has increased, new figures show, as a number of Government targets have been missed.

According to statistics released by Public Health Scotland, 525,654 people are waiting for outpatient procedures in Scotland, as of September 30 of this year.

While 151,093 people were waiting for inpatient or day case treatment on the same date and 151,651 were waiting for one of the eight key diagnostic tests.

In total, 828,398 people were on an NHS waiting list at the end of September, up from 820,352 at the end of June.

Scottish Labour deputy leader Dame Jackie Baillie said the figures showed that the “NHS is on the brink of disaster” ahead of the winter period.

For outpatient procedures, a total of 308,497 were completed in the three months up to September 30, an increase of 1.8% from the previous quarter.

However, just 63.4% of those completed were done in less than 12 weeks, down from 66.1% when compared to the period between March and June.

The total number of people waiting increased by 2.2% compared to the previous quarter, with Public Health Scotland blaming the impact the pandemic had on planned care, adding that the waiting list is now more than double the size it was at the end of March 2020.

The Scottish Government set new targets in July 2022 aimed at stemming long waits for treatment, including “eradicating” waits over two years by last August, waits of over 18 months by last December and waits of over a year by March of this year.

Public Health Scotland says this has “yet to be achieved”, despite some drops in long waits, with 862 people waiting more than two years, 6,187 waiting more than 18 months and 40,052 on the list for more than a year.

For inpatient and day case treatment, 59,416 people were seen in the last quarter – an increase of 0.4% – with 56.1% seen within the 12 week target, with the total number waiting almost double that seen at the end of 2019.

The Government target of eradicating waits of 18 months or longer for inpatient procedures has also not been met, with the number waiting more than that actually increasing by 3.8% from the previous quarter.

Michael Matheson
Scottish Labour has called for Michael Matheson to be sacked (Jane Barlow/PA)

Some 7,078 people have also been waiting more than two years, while 1,432 were waiting more than three.

A total of 26,077 people waited longer than the Scottish Government’s 12-week “treatment time guarantee”, the figures showed.

In diagnostic tests, the total number of people waiting has actually decreased by 955, although the figure remains much higher than the 88,301 people waiting in February 2020.

Of those waiting at the end of September, 50% had been on the list for less than six weeks, but the number of people waiting longer than six months for a test had increased by 13% since the previous quarter.

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “We are determined to ensure people receive the treatment they need as soon as possible.

“The First Minister has announced new annual funding of £100 million to help reduce inpatient and day-case waiting lists by an estimated 100,000 patients over the next three years.

“We are working with NHS Boards to reduce long waits, which have been exacerbated by the impacts of the global pandemic.

“This includes targets to address long waits and delivery of the commitments in our £1 billion NHS Recovery Plan to support an increase in inpatient, day-case, and outpatient activity.

“We know there are unacceptable waits in some specialities but we are committed to delivering year-on-year reductions.

“Two National Treatment Centres opened this year in Fife and Highland, with two further centres opening soon in Forth Valley and the Golden Jubilee, providing additional protected capacity for patients across Scotland.”

Scottish Labour has called for Health Secretary Michael Matheson – who is currently embroiled in a row over a near-£11,000 data roaming bill racked up on a holiday in Morocco – to be sacked.

“Waiting lists are at an all-time high, with thousands of Scots being left to suffer for over a year waiting for treatment and the SNP seem incapable of doing anything about it,” Dame Jackie said.

“Lives are already being put at risk by dangerously overburdened A&Es, which will only get worse as the temperatures drop.

“It is shameful that Michael Matheson is still clinging on to his job and drawing his ministerial salary despite not only lying to the public but also failing to deal with the crisis in our NHS.

“Humza Yousaf must do the right thing and sack Michael Matheson so we can get a new health secretary in post to drive down waiting lists and protect our NHS this winter.”

Scottish Tories shadow health secretary, Dr Sandesh Gulhane, said: “These figures are utterly disgraceful. The discredited and distracted SNP health secretary Michael Matheson is presiding over a scarcely believable backlog in Scotland’s NHS.”

He added: “While Michael Matheson continues to have his eye off the ball, more and more patients will pay the price. He must get a grip of this crisis immediately and sort the backlog which the SNP have lost control of.”