EMERGENCY waiting times have been under-reported at all acute hospitals in the NHS Lothian region.

Hospitals have to report how many A&E patients wait longer than four hours to be seen, treated and then either admitted or discharged.

However, auditors were called in to review the figures for Lothian after a whistleblower claimed that waiting times for the emergency department at St John’s Hospital in Livingston were actually higher than reported.

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Read more: Inquiry ordered into under-reported waiting times

The probe was also extended to the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, the Royal Hospital for Sick Children and the Acute Receiving and Assessment Unit (ARAU) at the Western General Hospital, which were also found to be under-reporting breaches of the four-hour A&E target.

Following the audit, it emerged that an additional 5.7 per cent of patients in October 2015 who had originally been recorded as complying with the A&E target had in fact waited longer than four hours. 

In September 2017, this was even higher - with an extra 10.5 per cent of patients found to have breached the A&E target despite having originally been recorded as a 'non-breach'. 

A report containing recommendations to tackle the problem will be discussed today at a meeting of the NHS Lothian health board.

has now been handed to the board and members will agree an improvement plan at the public meeting on Wednesday

The report concluded that there were areas of non-compliance that required further investigation and that staff had been applying locally produced guidelines on how to record patients who breach the access standard, which did not comply.

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NHS Lothian said all reporting practices surrounding emergency department waiting times were being re-modelled.

Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson Anas Sarwar said: “It is extremely disappointing to see NHS Lothian’s emergency department waiting times may in actual fact be much worse than initially published.

“The truth is waiting times are far too long in the Scottish NHS, with targets being missed on a weekly basis.

“There are already serious concerns about the transparency of this government, with the SNP administration trying to rewrite a report that was critical of the the condition of health service just a few months ago.

“It is vital that we are able to have confidence in figures published on the performance of our health service, and the health board must rectify this error as a matter of urgency.

NHS Lothian's deputy chief executive Jim Crombie said: "The report has made a number of recommendations and the board members will discuss them in greater detail.

"We have already put several of them into place, including the creation of a standard operating procedure and created staff training.

"As soon as we received these initial concerns, an internal audit team was appointed, headed by a senior non-executive director to oversee the investigation.

"We now have the results and the recommendations from that report and we will develop a plan to ensure effective action is taken."