There is now a “permanent crisis” in Scotland’s accident and emergency departments, the Scottish Conservatives have claimed after new figures showed a rise in the number of patients waiting more than 12 hours.

In the week ending March 24, 1,344 people, around 5% of those attending casualty had to wait half a day to be either admitted, transferred or discharged.

That is up from 1,277, or 4.7% of all patients, in the previous week.

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The statistics from Public Health Scotland, show that of the 26,867 people who went to A&E 65.4% were admitted, transferred or discharged within the Scottish Government’s four hour target time.

While that is up from the 62.8% recorded the previous week, it is still far below the ambition of 95% of patients admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours.

The figures also showing 3,211 patients spent more than eight hours waiting.

Two hospitals did not even manage to see half of their patients within four hours.

At Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert, just 47.3 were admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours, ahead of the 45.8% achieved at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh.

Over the course of February, 40,398 patients spent more than four hours in A&E, with this including 14,374 who were there for over eight hours, and 6,218 who spent at least half a day there.

Tory health spokesperson, Dr Sandesh Gulhane, claiming: “The SNP are presiding over a permanent crisis in Scotland’s A&E departments.”

He said that Health Secretary Neil Gray had “inherited a mess from his disgraced predecessor Michael Matheson”, adding that Mr Gray had “failed to act on spiralling waiting times since taking up his new job”.

Dr Gulhane warned: “These excessive delays – with over 1,300 patients waiting half a day to be seen this week – cause needless deaths.”

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Labour health spokesperson Dame Jackie Baillie said: “Four years on from the start of the pandemic and Scotland’s NHS remains in perpetual crisis.

“Health secretary after SNP health secretary has pledged to restore Scotland’s NHS but all we have had is soaring waits and deep SNP cuts that will fan the flames of the crisis.

“NHS staff are working tirelessly but they are being failed by an out-of-touch SNP Government that has run out of ideas.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “Thousands of patients every week waiting over half a day at A&E is just unacceptable, yet it has become the norm under the SNP.

“Patients and staff alike deserve better than this, so we urgently need to see action from the new Health Secretary to reverse this situation.”

Health Secretary Neil Gray said: “We know that the health service remains under sustained pressure. Waiting times are longer than we want them to be for too many patients, and we continue to work with boards to reduce these instances.

“Despite this, the monthly statistics show an improvement in A&E performance.”

The Health Secretary continued: “The pressures being felt by our A&E departments are not unique to Scotland, with similar challenges being felt by emergency departments throughout the UK and beyond.

“A&E performance is impacted by pressures from across the wider health and social care system, which is why our Unscheduled Care Collaborative Programme is taking a whole system approach as we work with health boards to deliver sustained improvement.”

Meanwhile, separate figures show that more than 2,000 operations were cancelled at the last minute in February.

However, there was also a steep jump in the number of surgeries scheduled to take place.

The 24,268 operations due to take place, was up 12.7% higher compared to February 2023.

However, of those 2,113 – or 8.7% – were cancelled the day before, or on the day the patient was due to be treated at a Scottish hospital.