One in 20 patients spent more than 12 hours in A&E at the end of March as performance against waiting time targets dipped.

The latest statistics show that that were a total of 26,556 unplanned attendances at emergency departments (ED) across Scotland in the week ending March 31 - down from just over 26,900 the previous week.

The weekly data covers larger A&E departments only, rather than minor injury units and smaller local casualties.

The figures, from Public Health Scotland, show that just fewer than two thirds of people attending EDs were seen, treated, and subsequently discharged, admitted or transferred to another hospital within the four hour target time.

This was down from 65.3% in the previous week, and remains well below the compliance target of 95%.

More than one in 10 (13%) people remained in ED for more than eight hours, and one in 20 (5.4%) were there for more than 12 hours - both percentages up slightly on the previous week.


The main obstacle is a lack of available hospital beds which blocks the flow of patients out of the emergency department onto a specialist ward for treatment.

This can also create a bottleneck for patients arriving by ambulance, who have to wait for space to become available before they can be handed over to A&E.

Separate figures from the Scottish Ambulance Service show that one in ten ambulances bringing patients to A&E in the final week of March waited more than one hour and 40 minutes before they were able to complete patient handover and get back on the road.

In some parts of the country, the delay was significantly worse.

At University Hospital Ayr, one in 10 ambulances waited outside for more than four hours and eight minutes, while University Hospital Crosshouse in Kilmarnock had the worst ambulance turnarounds in Scotland with median waits of one hour eight minutes in the final week of March.

The Herald: The proportion of people spending over eight and 12 hours in A&E began to rise steeply in 2021The proportion of people spending over eight and 12 hours in A&E began to rise steeply in 2021 (Image: PHS)

In Glasgow, fewer than half (49.3%) of people attending the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital met the four hour target to be seen, treated, and exited from A&E.

A total of 269 people spent more than eight hours in its emergency department, including 70 who were there for more than half a day - equivalent to 13.8% and 3.6% of its attendances at the end of March.

The median turnaround time for ambulances at the unit was 55 minutes, with one in 10 waiting outside with patients for more than one hour 41 minutes.

It comes days after Healthcare Improvement Scotland announced a new review into patient safety at the department after dozens of consultant whistleblowers raised the alarm.

Reacting to the latest A&E statistics, Scottish Labour health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said the situation is "getting worse instead of better".

She added: “Neil Gray inherited an NHS in turmoil thanks to the mismanagement of his predecessors, including Humza Yousaf – but he cannot waste any more time getting to grips with this crisis.

“We need urgent action to ease the pressure on A&E and keep patients safe – including support for staff and a real plan to tackle delayed discharge.”

The Herald: Neil Gray was appointed as Health Secretary in February this yearNeil Gray was appointed as Health Secretary in February this year (Image: PA)

Dr Sandesh Gulhane, Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary, noted that performance at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary - where 60% of patients waited more than four hours - was the worst since winter.

He added: “It is completely unacceptable that well into spring these already-deplorable waiting times are getting markedly worse.

"But it is the legacy of dire workforce planning by a succession of SNP health secretaries and Humza Yousaf’s flimsy Covid recovery plan.”

Scottish LibDem leader, Alex Cole-Hamilton, added: "It has been years now since our A&E departments have seen anything approaching the levels they should be operating at.

"With thousands facing long waits every week it is clear the SNP have failed to help A&E recover.

"Patients and staff alike deserve better than this, so we urgently need to see meaningful action taken to reverse this situation.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "The pressures being felt by our A&E departments is not unique to Scotland, with similar challenges being felt by emergency departments throughout the UK and beyond.

"We know that the health service remains under sustained pressure and waiting times are longer than we want them to be for too many patients.

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