Waiting time performance in A&E departments deteriorated to a six-month low in October, official figures have revealed.

Public Health Scotland reported only 68.3% of patients were seen within four hours, down from 70% in September, and the worst figure since 68% in March.

Over the course of October 14,203 people (11.3%) waited more than eight hours to be seen and admitted, transferred or discharged, up from 12,193 in September (9.4%).

In addition, 6,097 patients waited more than half a day in Ocotber (4.8%), compared to 4,418 (3.4%) in Spetmber.

The Scottish Tories said it was a “terrifying indicator” ahead of the winter peak for the NHS.

Other data released today showed a marginal improvement in last week’s A&E waits, although they suggest an overall decline in November compared to October.

PHS said 64.3% of patients were seen in time in the seven days to November 26, up from 63.4% the previous week.

The number of extreme waits also saw improvements, with 2,966 people waiting more than eight hours in casualty, down from 3,270 the week before.

The number of patients waiting more than 12 hours fell from 1,387 to 1,237 last week.

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 44.3% of patients seen within four hours, then NHS Lanarkshire (55.9%) and NHS Lothian (60.1%).

Opposition parties linked the numbers to SNP health Secretary Michael Matheson and the row over his £11,000 Holyrood iPad bill, run up on a holiday in Morocco. 

He revealed his two teenage sons had been watching football using the device’s signal, yet misled the media about it four days after belatedly learning the truth last month. 

Tory MSP Dr Sandesh Gulhane said the “marked worsening” in the October figure for A&E waiting times was “unacceptable” and “a terrifying indicator” of worse to come this winter.

He said: “The SNP remain miles off meeting their own waiting time targets – so the last thing we need is a distracted and discredited health secretary who is engulfed in a personal scandal rather than being focused on his job. 

“Michael Matheson is not fit for office and has to go.

“It’s appalling that around a third of patients are waiting longer than four hours to be seen and almost one in 20 are waiting more than half a day, because we know that these delays lead to tragic and avoidable deaths.

“Our A&E wards can’t cope with the huge demands placed on them and the buck for that stops with the dire workforce planning of a succession of SNP health secretaries.”

Scottish Labour deputy Dame Jackie Baillie said: “Our NHS is headed towards potential catastrophe this winter but the SNP is distracted by its own sleaze.
“A&E is in a constant state of over-demand, putting lives at risk day-in day-out. Delayed discharge is on the rise, wreaking havoc across our NHS and putting patients in danger.

“We need real leadership to deal with this emergency before it claims lives and burns out hardworking staff – but Michael Matheson has lost the public’s trust. Humza Yousaf must sack Michael Matheson and set out a real plan to protect our NHS this winter.”