MORE than 8,000 A&E patients were forced to wait over four hours to be seen last week, according to the latest figures. 

The statistics, published by Public Health Scotland statistics on Tuesday, revealed that 70.2 per cent of those who attended emergency departments in the week up to May 15 were seen in less than four hours.

Of the 26,979 attendees at A&E services in Scotland, 8,040 waited more than four hours. Of those 2,076 waited more than eight hours and 626 waited more than 12 hours.

The Scottish Conservatives described the statistics as “atrocious,” while Labour said the government risked "normalising chaos". 

A Scottish Government spokesperson said hospitals were facing "capacity issues as a result of high demand, staff absence and reduced beds due to infection control requirements."

It’s the second week in a row where the number of people waiting has increased and follows a three-week run of improvements in April.

The Scottish Government’s target for 95% of patients to be seen and subsequently discharged or admitted within four hours, has now not been met since July 2020. 

The only health boards to meet the target were NHS Shetland and NHS Western Isles, where, respectively, 96.8% and 96.9% of patients were seen within four hours. However, the number of people attending both boards was just 132 and 129.

The worst performing board was NHS Forth Valley where just 54.5% of the 1,224 patients attending were seen within four hours. 

In Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 68.3% of the 6,766 patients were seen within four hours, though just 55.2% of people at the flagship Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital were seen within the target.

In NHS Lothian, 68.4% of the 4,703 patients attending A&E in NHS Lothian were seen in time, though again the numbers took a dip at the flagship Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh where just 51.9% were seen in four hours. 

Scottish Tory health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane said: “We’re on the brink of summer and Covid infection rates have tailed off, yet there’s still no end in sight to the atrocious A&E stats.

“It’s completely unacceptable that in the space of a week more than 8,000 people had to wait over four hours to be seen.

"And yet it’s almost become the default position that three in 10 people coming to A&E face these excessive waits because the SNP Government have missed their 95% target by such a huge margin for so long.   

“The Health Secretary can’t just shrug his shoulders and accept this, because lives are being needlessly lost.

“He has to realise his flimsy Covid Recovery Plan isn’t fit for purpose and belatedly come up with a strategy for tackling this deadly crisis.”

Liberal Democrat leader, Alex Cole-Hamilton said: "The continuing waiting times crisis in our A&E departments is becoming intolerable for patients and staff alike. The lack of action from the SNP/Green government is providing no confidence that this crisis will abate any time soon.

"Nicola Sturgeon and Humza Yousaf have made it clear they would much rather pontificate endlessly on their latest push for independence rather than do what needs to be done to solve this crisis now. They are taking people for granted.

"Patients deserve to be seen for treatment quickly and close to home, yet both of these seem like a pipe dream after 15 years of SNP rule.

"The Health Secretary must also finally accept the need for an inquiry into avoidable deaths linked to the crisis in emergency care. We all deserve to know why ministers have not fixed this crisis."

Scottish Labour Health spokesperson Jackie Baillie said:“These dire figures confirm our emergency rooms have spent yet another week in crisis.

“We cannot normalise chaos while lives are being put at risk by dangerously long waits.

“Incredible NHS staff are working tirelessly to keep things running, but they shouldn’t be pushed to exhaustion by papering over the cracks caused by failures in leadership.

“The SNP need to do right by NHS patients and staff and get a grip on this life-threatening crisis, which has been raging on for months now.

“We don’t need any more commentary from the Health Secretary – we need action.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “The latest weekly figures show seven out of 10 patients are being seen within the four-hour target in our A&E departments, despite the unprecedented and continued impact of the pandemic on services.

“We know the situation may fluctuate as hospitals manage pandemic-related challenges and backlogs, but we expect the pressure in A&E to ease as Covid cases continue to decrease.

“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.”

The spokesman added: “Scotland continues to have the best performing A&Es in the UK, outperforming those in England, Wales and Northern Ireland for over six years.”