A RECORD number of patients in Scotland are dying while on waiting lists for their first hospital consultation, figures have shown.

There was a 50 per cent rise between 2013 and 2017 in the number of people who passed away before they were seen, and a quarter increase in the number dying while waiting on treatment following an initial consultation.

Simon Barker, head of the British Medical Association's Scottish consultants committee, said the figures were a result of "chronically underinvesting in the hospital services required".

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He said the many patients would have been elderly and it was inevitable that they would die from a variety of causes before being seen, but that there was concern that some were dying because they had waited too long.

He added that increased funding from the Scottish Government has not been enough to match growing need. He said: "We have a teaspoon, the bath is filling and we cannot empty it fast enough."

The data, reported by the Times and provided by statistics body ISD Scotland, showed that 1,240 patients had died in the first three months of 2017 died waiting for their first hospital appointment, a record since the current Scottish waiting lists system was created in 2013. It was up from 799 in the first three months of 2013, an increase of 55 per cent.

It has coincided with an escalation in the delays faced by patients. In the first three months of 2013, only 5000 patients had experienced a delay of more than four months to be seen. In the first three months of 2017, more than 57,000 people were waiting more than four months for an appointment.

There has also been a rise in the number of patients dying while on the waiting list for hospital treatment. In the first six months of 2013, 345 people died in the queue compared with 438 in the first half of 2017, a 26 per cent increase.

A spokeswoman for Age Scotland said: "This increase in the number of people who die while waiting for hospital appointments is extremely concerning, and behind these figures will be deeply sad experiences for many older people and their families."

Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson Anas Sarwar said: “We are now at a stage where we have record numbers of people dying while waiting for hospital appointments - Shona Robison must be hanging her head in shame at these statistics.

“This is the consequence of no workforce strategy in the health service, with NHS staff over-worked and under-resourced."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "Regrettably, there is always a very small proportion of patients who pass away while awaiting treatment." She said patient safety was a paramount concern.