SCOTLAND’S NHS is on “life support,” Labour has said after new figures revealed that more than half a million people are on the waiting list. 

According to the latest figures from Public Health Scotland, there were 421,561 outpatients - those needing minor diagnostic tests such as X-rays, blood tests and ultrasound - and 131,620 inpatients  - those requiring at least one overnight stay - waiting for treatment.

The 553,181, equivalent to about one in 10 of the population, is up 15,000 at the end of last year and is the highest since statistics were recorded in their current form about a decade ago.

The inpatient waiting list was 36.8 per cent higher than the average at the end of quarters in 2019. While the outpatient waiting list was a staggering 70.9% higher.

There’s also been a stark increase in the number of patients waiting more than two years for treatment.

The number of outpatients waiting over 104 weeks is up from 0.2% to 0.7%, an increase of 1,824 to 2,831.

While the increase in the proportion of inpatients waiting over 104 weeks has jumped from 4.3% to 8.1%, up 5,459 to 10,613.

That’s despite the Scottish Government’s legally binding treatment time guarantee, which states that eligible patients due to receive planned inpatient or day-case treatment must receive that treatment within 12 weeks.

Of those outpatients waiting, just 49.6% had been seen within the 12 treatment time guarantee, which, public health Scotland say, is  “markedly down on the average reported in 2019” when the equivalent figure was 73.5%.

Only 34% of inpatients had been waiting 12 weeks or less, down on the 68.7% average reported in 2019.

The report said this growth in waiting times reflected that “the number of referrals each month has often exceeded the number of patients being removed from lists, either because they were admitted for treatment or removed for other reasons.”

A total of 45,998 patients were admitted to hospital for treatment in the first three months of this year, up by 3.6% on the previous three months, but still 34.8% lower than the total number being treated prior to the Covid pandemic.

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf was told to “finally show some leadership and get a grip of this soaring backlog”.

Scottish Tory health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane said: “It is astonishing that over half a million patients are still waiting for treatment and that figure is only heading in the wrong direction.”

The GP added: “As we emerge from the pandemic, Humza Yousaf must finally show some leadership and get a grip of this soaring backlog.

“He has to accept his flimsy NHS Recovery Plan published over nine months ago simply isn’t cutting it.”

Scottish Labour Health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said the SNP were sitting on their hands.

Ms Baillie said: “NHS staff are working tirelessly to keep things afloat, but they are being badly failed by an absent government.

“Our NHS is on life support and it is patients and hardworking staff who are paying the price. We cannot afford to waste any more time while lives are on the line.”

Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said the 12-week Treatment Time Guarantee was giving patients "false hope".


He said: “The long waits that patients are facing are worse than ever and the backlog of people needing treatment is growing fast. Many sectors are emerging from the shadow of the pandemic, but it’s a different story for NHS staff working tirelessly to stabilise the health service.

“These appalling figures show why the attentions of ministers must be squarely upon the NHS. It is further proof that the SNP/Green Government was wrong to vote down my calls for an urgent new Burnout Prevention Strategy to protect staff. They are being taken for granted."

A Scottish Government spokesperson said that over 2.5 million inpatients and day cases have benefited from the 12-weeks treatment target since it was introduced.

They said: “Pausing of non-urgent activity during the pandemic has inevitably led to a build-up of numbers waiting for treatment, and the emergence of Omicron and the BA.2 subvariant in late 2021 has undoubtedly added to existing significant pressure.

“It is regrettable that we cannot mobilise at the scope and scale we all wish to see, but we have to balance competing demands and pressures, making the best decisions we can, none of which are easy nor taken lightly. These are issues seen in health care systems across the UK.”

The spokesperson told how a framework had been published “which provides NHS Boards with key principles to support the prioritising of their elective care waiting lists during the Covid-19 pandemic”.

They continued: “We published an NHS Recovery Plan in August 2021, setting out our plans for health and social are over the next five years.

“Backed by over £1 billion of funding, the Plan will support an increase in inpatient, daycase, and outpatient activity to address the backlogs of care, which will be supported by the implementation of sustainable improvements and new models of care.

“Implementation of the plan is a top priority.”