HOSPITALS are being urged to focus on priority patients in accident and emergency departments to help reduce waiting times for those in greatest need.

New guidance has been issued to help move non-emergency cases to the correct service after consultation with a senior clinician.

Health Secretary Alex Neil said the approach would be taken across Scotland following success in NHS Tayside.

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"This new guidance will make sure all patients are getting the right treatment, in the right place and by the right clinicians," he said.

"That not only helps the NHS meet demands, but it is better for patients as they get treated quicker.

"Our A&E departments provide a remarkable service, and day in, day out they ensure those patients who have the most imminent need get access to the fastest possible treatment."

In Tayside, about 80,000 patients are seen each year at A&E in Perth Royal Infirmary and Ninewells, Dundee. About 4000 patients a year are sent on to a different service for treatment, such as a GP, NHS 24 or out-of-hours clinic.

Examples could include patients seeking treatment for ingrown toenails, toothache or earache, the Scottish Government said.

NHS Tayside chief executive Lesley McLay said: "The public have always recognised that A&E is for those with genuine emer­gencies, but they are not always aware of what alternatives are out there.

"By having a senior clinician assess and redirect patients as necessary we can ensure everyone receives the appropriate treatment."