CHILDREN in Scotland are waiting longer than ever for ear, nose and throat (ENT) appointments, figures reveal.

On average, under-16s waited 71 days for their first specialist appointments for conditions like tonsillitis, nosebleeds and hearing problems during 2016.

It is the longest average wait since records began in 1999, and compares to 66 days in 2015 and as little as 44 days in 2011.

Across Scotland, more than 10,000 children are admitted to hospital for ENT problems each year, mostly on an elective basis.

Conditions which come under ENT range from mouth cancers and glandular fever, to issues with snoring and vertigo.

In some health boards children are waiting even longer.

In Grampian, the average wait was 133 days, followed by Ayrshire and Arran on 131 days and Shetland on 120 days.

The best-performing board for ENT waits was Dumfries and Galloway, where youngsters waited on average for just 43 days.

The statistics emerged following a parliamentary question from Scottish Conservative public health spokesman Miles Briggs.

Scottish Conservative public health spokesman Miles Briggs said: “Ear, nose and throat problems can range from the mildly irritating to the very severe.

“But that’s no excuse for the Scottish Government to preside over a system which is now recording the longest waits in two decades.

“Each year thousands of children are admitted with ENT problems, so it is not a minority area of care.

“When a child is referred for hospital treatment, it is unacceptable that – in some health board areas – it is almost five months before they are seen to.

“The trend is getting worse, and the SNP has to act.

“It’s in sole charge of the health service, and has no-one to blame for this slip in performance but itself."

The latest NHS workforce figures show that the number of consultants in post for all surgical specialities, including ENT, fell by 0.3 per cent in the year to December 2016. However, the statistics from ISD Scotland, do not provide a breakdown of the trend for ENT consultants.

Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “We want to ensure all patients, particularly children, have the shortest possible wait for treatment. That is why we announced £10 million in November to specifically address outpatients waits. We have also announced a Modern Outpatient plan to reduce demand for outpatient services by 400,000 by 2020.

“As well as undertaking a programme of record investment and reform, working to shift the balance of care away from hospitals and into community settings, we are investing £200 million in a network of five new elective and diagnostic treatment centres as well as expanding the Golden Jubilee. This is helping the NHS meet increasing demand and will have a significant impact on reducing waiting times for patients in the future.”