The performance of Scotland’s A&E units has improved after hitting a 10-month low last week, but more than a third of patients are still waiting too long.

Public Health Scotland reported that 64% of patients were seen within the official four-hour target in the week ending November 12, up from 60.8% the previous week.

There were also slight improvements in the number of patients enduring extreme waits.

The number waiting more than eight hours fell from 3,758 to 3,237 (from 15.1 to 13% of patients), and the number waiting more than 12 hours fell from 1,671 to 1,438 (6.7 to 5.8%). 

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However the numbers were still among the highest recorded since the spring.

The Scottish Tories said SNP health secretary Michael Matheson had his eye “well and truly off the ball” and should be sacked.

The target is for 95% of patients to be admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours.

It has not been met nationally since July 2020.

The worst performing health board last week was NHS Forth Valley, with just 41.4% of patients seen within four hours, then NHS Lanarkshire (57.9%) and NHS Lothian (59.2%).

The improved figures are a welcome scrap of good news for Mr Matheson, who is facing calls to resign over an £11,000 bill for his Holyrood iPad.

After initially blaming an old SIM card, the Falkirk West MSP admitted his teenage sons had run up huige data charges watching football while on holiday in Morocco at New Year.

Tory MSP Dr Sandesh Gulhane said: “Michael Matheson’s eye has been well and truly off the ball as our NHS looks set to plunge into a state of winter chaos.

“In his own backyard in NHS Forth Valley, only four in ten patients are now being seen on time at A&E, which is truly terrifying and absolutely appalling.

“It is now the shocking norm on the SNP’s watch that across Scotland over a third of patients are not seen within four hours.

“That tragically leads to needless, excess deaths, despite the best efforts of my dedicated colleagues on the frontline. We have a lame-duck and lying health secretary, whose position is simply untenable, in charge of our A&E departments.”

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He went on: “The last thing suffering patients and staff need is a health secretary totally distracted by a personal scandal engulfing him. 

“If he won’t do the right thing and resign, Humza Yousaf should sack him.”

Scottish Labour health spokesperson Jackie Baillie added: “While Michael Matheson fights a desperate rear-guard action to protect his ministerial salary, the situation in our A&E departments remains dire.

“It is simply shocking that almost 1,500 patients are waiting over half a day in A&E in only a week.

“NHS staff are working tirelessly but they are being let down by this incompetent, scandal-struck SNP government.

“Only by tackling delayed discharge and the crisis in social care, which is putting pressure on NHS services, and addressing chronic workforce issues, can we get A&E back on its feet.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said there was a "devastating" crisis in emergency departments.

He said: “Everyone on the frontline knows that the situation is desperate.

"Despite many shifts being dangerously understaffed, SNP and Green ministers have sat on their hands.

He said Mr Matheson “must be laser-focused on the day job and put the voices of staff first” and urged the Health Secretary to institute an “urgent inquiry into the hundreds of avoidable deaths linked to the emergency care crisis”.

Mr Matheson said delays in discharging people from hospital “continues to have an impact” on A&E performance, as he stressed the government was working with NHS boards to deal with the issue.

He said: “Scotland’s A&E performance has improved by over 3% this week.

"However, I am clear that A&E performance is not where it needs to be and we continue to work closely with Boards to support delivery of sustained improvements.

"Hospital bed occupancy continues to have an impact on performance.

"To address this, we have made available an additional £12m funding to support the further expansion of Hospital at Home services to bolster capacity for winter and we are implementing the Delayed Discharge and Hospital Occupancy Action Plan at pace, delivering actions we know work to ensure patients receive the right care in the right setting.

“We will continue to work collaboratively with health boards to develop services and support sustained improvement.”