The number of patients waiting more than half a day to be treated in Scotland’s A&E units increased last week, despite a slight improvement in performance overall.

New official figures from Public Health Scotland showed the proportion of people treated within the four-hour target rose from 70.2 per cent  to 71.6% in the week ending May 1.

The target, which has not been met nationally since July 2020, is for 95% of patients to be admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours.

The Tories said the figures were “relentlessly grim” and accused SNP Health Secretary Humza Yousaf of being little more than a “bystander” to the crisis.

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

Last week’s improvement coincided with fewer people seeking treatment, with attendances down from 26,237 to 25,692.

The number of people waiting more than four hours fell from 7,824 to 7,286, while the number waiting more than eight hours went from 1,973 to 1,741.

However more people endured extreme waits, with the number spending more than 12 hours in casualty increasing from 652 to 677.

The worst performing health board was NHS Borders, with 61.5% of patients seen on time, with NHS Ayrshire & Arran on 64.4% and NHS Lothian on 67.2%.

Waiting time performance hit an all-time low in the week ending March 22, when just 66.2% of patients were seen on time, and has been slowly edging upwards since.

The Scottish Government has blamed the Covid pandemic and staff shortages.

Tory MSP Dr Sandesh Gulhane said: “The relentlessly grim stats on the state of Scotland’s A&E wards just keep coming, while the Health Secretary watches on like a helpless bystander rather than the man whose job it is to find solutions.

“But he can’t continue to fall back on his flimsy and inadequate Covid Recovery Plan when almost 100 people per day are having to wait more than 12 hours to be seen, because we know these excess delays inevitably lead to avoidable deaths.

“It is not just rival politicians pointing out how intolerable things are. In the last week, we’ve had a senior doctor describe the situation on our A&E wards as ‘horrific’ and the Royal College of Emergency Medicine refer to ‘a broken health system in dire crisis’.

“Humza Yousaf must belatedly come up with a coherent plan for tackling the crisis.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “These figures show that performance in our A&E departments continues to improve. This follows 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. Although the situation may continue to fluctuate, we expect pressures on A&E to ease as Covid cases in hospital continue to decline.

“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.

“Hospitals continue to face capacity issues as a result of high demand, staff absence and reduced beds due to infection control requirements, while high numbers of patients presenting who are acutely unwell is leading to a longer length of time spent in hospital and impacting on flow.”