Scotland’s accident and emergency departments have seen a slight improvement in the last week, but more than a third of patients are still waiting too long.

The latest figures from Public Health Scotland showed that 63.5% of all patients were seen and either admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours.

While that is up from 62.8% the previous week, it is still far below the Scottish Government target of 95%.

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For the week ending February 4, of the 25,212 people who went to A&E, 15,999 were admitted, transferred or discharged within the four hour target time, while 3,482 patients were there for more than eight hours, and 1,483 were there for more than 12.

Neil Gray, who took over as Health Secretary on Thursday following the resignation of Michael Matheson, said: “We recognise that the system remains under sustained pressure, and waiting times are longer than we want them to be for some patients.”

He said that despite this, “there are some signs of stabilisation across the system in recent weeks, and we hope to see pressure easing in weeks to come".

Mr Gray said performance in A&E was “impacted by pressures from across the wider health and social care system”, with difficulties discharging patients from other parts of hospitals often affecting waits in A&E departments.

The Health Secretary said, however, that the Government’s unscheduled care collaborative programme was “taking a whole system approach as we work with Health Boards to deliver sustained improvement”.

He said: “Hospital bed occupancy continues to be a major factor impacting on performance.

“To address this, the delayed discharge and hospital occupancy action plan is being implemented at pace, delivering actions we know work to ensure patients receive the right care in the right setting.”

According to the data, four hospitals treated less than half of patients in A&E within the four-hour target time.

At the Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert, 44.3% of patients in A&E were admitted, transferred or discharged within this time; while the figure for the flagship Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow was 44.6%.

At the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, 45.4% were met within the target, while at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh the corresponding figure was 48.9%.

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Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “The new health secretary must not allow these dire waiting times in Scotland’s A&E departments to continue to simply be the new normal.

“Staff and patients need to see real action from this Government.”

Scottish Labour health spokesperson Jackie Baillie said: “We might have a new health minister but it is clear that we have the same old chaos in our A&E departments.

“Neil Gray inherits an NHS plunged into disarray by the failures of successive SNP health ministers.

“While staff work tirelessly to save lives, the SNP has indulged in a revolving-door policy with health secretaries leaving post long before they got to grips with the crisis.

“Neil Gray must show now why he has what it takes to succeed where so many – including Humza Yousaf – have failed.”

The Scottish Tory deputy health spokesperson, Tess White said: “Michael Matheson may finally have done the right thing and resigned, but these waiting times expose the crisis he has left behind in Scotland’s A&E departments.

“He was the latest in a long line of SNP health secretaries – including Humza Yousaf – who completely failed to get a grip on A&E waiting times and more and more patients are suffering as a result.

“Despite the best efforts of frontline staff, the shocking norm on the SNP’s watch is over a third of A&E patients waiting over four hours to be seen.

“That is not simply a matter of inconvenience, we know it leads to needless deaths.

“After nearly 17 years of SNP mismanagement of our NHS, it is clear that the latest Health Secretary – Neil Gray – cannot repeat the mistakes of his predecessors.”