SCOTLAND has recorded its worst monthly A&E waiting times since the SNP came to power, with almost 30 per cent of patients treated too late. 

Official figures from Public Health Scotland showed 71.6% of people were seen within the statutory four-hour target in March, down from 74.2% in February.

When the SNP came to power in 2007, the figure was 96.6%.

The data also showed big increases in extreme waits in March, as the number of people attending emergency units already stretched by Covid rose from 110,196 to 130,188.

Of these patients, 4,128 (3.3%) endured a waiting time of more than 12 hours, an increase of 1,724 compared to February.

A further 11,017 attendees (8.7%) spent more than eight hours in an emergency department, compared to 6,602 (6.2%) facing that length of time in February.

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 Royal College of Emergency Medicine has warned the significant delays are harming or killing more than 30 patients a week. 

The Scottish Tories said the latest figures were “horrendous”.

However other new figures showed a slight improvement in more recent A&E performance. 

Public Health Scotland reported 70.2% of patients were seen within the four-hour target in the week ending April 24, up from 68.1% the previous week.

The slightly better performance was in spite of a jump in attendances at emergency units, which rose from 23,888 to 26,235, meaning the absolute number of people waiting more than four hours rose, despite the improvement in percentage terms.

However the number of patients enduring extreme waits fell.

While the number waiting more than four hours rose from 7,617 to 7,828, the number waiting more than eight hours fell from 2,159 to 1,974 and over 12 hours from 855 to 653.

The worst performing health board was NHS Forth Valley, with just 54.4% of patients seen on time, with NHS Borders on 58.5% and NHS Ayrshire & Arran on 64.9%.

Tory MSP Dr Sandesh Gulhane said: “There is still no end in sight to the horrendous A&E waiting times in Scotland - in fact things are getting even worse.

“All the Covid restrictions have been lifted and the NHS is apparently no longer on an emergency footing, and yet we have a new monthly record for the proportion of patients waiting four hours to be seen.

“The explanation for this - and the tragic, avoidable deaths it’s causing - is simple: dreadful workforce planning by the SNP Government.

“This is completely unacceptable for patients, but it’s also really unfair on frontline staff who have been stretched beyond breaking point for months and feel responsible for a crisis that’s not of their making.

“Unfortunately, [Health Secretary] Humza Yousaf continues to bury his head in the sand when it’s clear his flimsy Covid Recovery Plan is inadequate for the scale of the crisis.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “These latest weekly figures show a further improvement in A&E performance, and follow recent changes allowing boards to safely de-escalate Covid-related infection and prevention control measures with the aim of easing patient flows.

“We are also continuing to enhance capacity for Hospital at Home, and a range of other services which allow people to be treated at home rather than in hospital.

“The latest monthly figures published show Scotland continues to have the best performing A&Es in the UK, outperforming those in England, Wales and Northern Ireland for over six years.”

Public Health Scotland also reported 2,109 (9.6%) of all planned operations in the month of March were cancelled the day before or on the day the patient was due to be treated.

Delayed discharges rose in March to 1,836, up 8% compared to February’s figure of 1,704.

Public Health Scotland said this was largely due to an increase in delays as a result of the infection control measures in place at hospital or in care homes.