First Minister Humza Yousaf has been accused of overseeing a “system-wide cycle of despair” after coming under pressure for NHS waiting times.

Scottish Labour deputy leader, Jackie Baillie, pressed Mr Yousaf at First Minister’s Questions over data from Public Health Scotland showing that more than 1,500 patients have waited more than three years for NHS treatment.

The FM admitted that “excessively long waits” were “unacceptable”.

He added: “We are working hard to drive down the longest waits, and we have already seen a significant reduction since targets were announced last July.

“The latest Public Health Scotland data shows that 73% of in-patient day-case specialties had fewer than 10 patients waiting for more than three years, and only eight had 10 or more.”

Mr Yousaf acknowledged there “there is undoubtedly more to do”.

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He said: “That is why, in each of the next three years, we will provide an extra £100 million to accelerate treatment for patients and reduce in-patient and day-case waiting lists by an estimated 100,000 patients.

“That investment will allow us to maximise capacity, build far greater resilience into the system and deliver year-on-year reductions in the number of patients who have waited far too long for treatment.”

Ms Baillie pointed to the First Minister pledging “a series of targets for completely eradicating long waits for treatment” but warned that “by September 2022, not a single one of those targets had been met”.

The Herald: Jackie BaillieJackie Baillie (Image: PA)

She added: “In fact, instead of there being zero, as promised, there are a shocking 6,831 Scots waiting more than two years.

“The £300 million over three years that the First Minister has recently announced is expected to treat 100,000 people – the waiting list sits at 800,000 people, and it is growing.

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“The British Medical Association and the Royal College of Nursing have been scathing about the total failure to acknowledge the workforce crisis, and even his own economy minister has admitted that the Government had no idea how it will all be funded.”

In response, Mr Yousaf pointed to “the impact that the global pandemic had on health services right across Scotland and the United Kingdom”.

He told MSPs that “we have made significant reductions”.

Mr Yousaf said: “The number of people who are waiting for more than two years for new out-patient appointments is down by 59%.

“When it comes to people who have been waiting as in-patients for longer than two years, the figure has also reduced by 28% since targets were announced.

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“We will continue our record investment in the NHS, to ensure that our staff numbers are at historically high and record levels, and to make sure that our NHS staff remain the best paid anywhere in the UK.”

But Conservative health spokesperson, Sandesh Gulhane, warned that “desperate patients are being forced to continue to see general practitioners”, which he said was “forcing patients with new issues to wait, leading to them going to accident and emergency departments in desperation”.

He added: “That is a system-wide cycle of despair that contributed to a record number of deaths last winter.”

But Mr Yousaf said the issues raised by Mr Gulhane was “exactly why we are investing an additional £300 million to reduce waiting lists for patients who have been waiting for far too long”.