WAITING time performances in Scotland’s A&E departments have deteriorated for a second week running after showing a brief improvement last month.

The latest official figures showed more than a quarter of people attending casualty had to wait longer than the four-hour target for treatment.

The Scottish Tories said the situation was "wholly unacceptable".

Public Health Scotland reported 74.4 per cent of patients were seen on time in the week to February 6, down from 75.6% the previous week and 77.7% the week before that.

The number of patients waiting over four hours was 5,999, up from 5,647 the previous week.

They number of patients waiting eight hours also increased, from 1,269 to 1,346, while those waiting 12 hours or more increased from 471 to 498.

The deterioration coincided with a slight rise in attendances, up from 23,159 to 23,429.

The reversals followed two consecutive weeks of improvements, albeit from a record low, when the waning impact of the Omicron variant on staff shortages was seen as a factor.

They add to the pressure on SNP health secretary Humza Yousaf, who has promised extra funding for the NHs to help address the issue.

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.

It has been below 80% since mid July this year.

The worst performing health board last week was NHS Lothian, with just 64.7% of A&E patients seen on time, with NHS Forth Valley on 65.4% and NHS Grampian on 70.9%.

Tory MSP Dr Sandesh Gulhane said: “Week after week Humza Yousaf’s continued inaction is failing our NHS. These A&E waiting times are once again wholly unacceptable.

“Lives are being put at risk due to the SNP Health Secretary not getting a grip of this situation long before now.

"Our frontline NHS staff are working flat out but they are being badly let down by the SNP Government who haven’t stepped up to support them.

“Humza Yousaf needs to start showing the leadership required if A&E waiting times are ever again going to be brought under control.

"His flimsy NHS Recovery plan has failed miserably to remobilise frontline services and patients turning up at A&E are continuing to pay the price.”

Scottish Labour deputy Jackie Baillie said: “This is a stark reminder that the crisis engulfing our A&E is far from over.

“Not only are things not improving, but they are getting worse once again, despite the very best efforts of the hardworking NHS staff.

“Hundreds of people being stranded for over 12 hours when seeking urgent help is downright dangerous, and it is a damning indictment of the SNP’s response to this crisis.

“If the SNP are going to ease the pressure on our emergency rooms, they need to free up capacity by tackling delayed discharge – but this has soared to its highest point since the pandemic began.

“We cannot let chaos become the new normal in our NHS. The SNP must make sure health and social care services across Scotland can cope, or lives will be lost.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton also called on Mr Yousaf to ramp up his efforts on casualty waits.

He said: "The target is being missed week after week despite NHS staff continuing to work around the clock.

"The SNP has colossally failed our health system - not just during the pandemic but for the past 15 years. 

"This Government failed to deliver a solid NHS recovery plan, voted down our Burnout Prevention Strategy and still haven’t responded to our proposals for a Health and Social Care Staff Assembly.  

"Patients' lives are potentially at risk, our NHS heroes are exhausted and the situation demands immediate and systemic change.

"The Health Secretary must ramp up his efforts, and deliver a new plan that is backed up with the new staff and resources necessary to get the health service back on its feet." 

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “A&E waits continue to show a marked improvement on the situation from the turn of the year.

“Almost three-quarters of patients were seen within the four-hour target and this is reflective of the improvements we are seeing in staff absence and the series of measures implemented to minimise pressures across our A&E services.”

The spokeswoman stressed that “NHS staff continue to face unprecedented pressures as they work to respond to the pandemic whilst continuing to provide vital treatment and optimal patient care”.

She said: “Scotland has the best performing A&Es in the UK. In fact, Scotland’s A&Es have outperformed those in England, Wales and Northern Ireland for over six years.

“The most recent NHS Digital comparison of 12-hour waits in the UK showed that the number of people waiting over 12 hours in England in A&E was proportionately eight times higher than in Scotland, and the rate in Wales was over 21 times higher.

“In the last seven years there have been more than 10.8 million A&E attendances in Scotland with over nine in 10 people being seen, treated or discharged within four hours, and with 99.7% seen in under 12 hours.

“Our NHS staff have worked incredibly hard during the pandemic and they have our thanks for the care they continue to provide the people of Scotland.”

The Sottish Government has “expanded capacity in NHS24 so they can help more people and further alleviate pressures on the rest of NHS and social care”, the spokeswoman added.

She went on: “The best way to protect our NHS through the winter period and help those who are working so hard in the NHS and social care to keep us safe is to get vaccinated, continue to follow existing safety guidance and limit contact with other households as much as possible.”