HUMAZ Yousaf has been accused of being politically “impotent” after A&E waiting time performance worsened again last week.

Figures released by Public Health Scotland showed a decline in the overall number of patients seen on time, and increases in those enduring extreme waits.

In one health board, the majority of A&E patients waited too long.

The Scottish Tories said it was a “damning indictment” of the SNP health secretary’s record, while the Liberal Democrats said the crisis in A&E risked becoming “the new normal”. 

In the week to May 29, only 69.6 per cent of people attending A&E were dealt with within the four hour target, down from 70.2% in both of the two previous weeks.

The decline was despite fewer people going to A&E last week, when attendances fell from 27,094 to 26,593.

The number of people waiting more than four hours rose from 8,069 to 8,201, the second highest figure since comparable records began in 2015.

The number of people waiting more than eight hours also rose, from 1,980 to 2,315 last week, and the number waiting more than 12 hours rose from 648 to 818.

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

The worst performing health board was NHS Forth Valley, where less than half of patients, just 46.2%, were seen within four hours.

In NHS Lanarkshire it was 62% and in NHS Lothian it was 64.6%.

Other official PHS figures for all of April showed A&E performance improved slightly to 72.1% of patients seen on time, albeit from a monthly record low of 71.6% in March. 

Tory MSP Dr Sandesh Gulhane said: “The crisis in Scotland’s A&E wards is not just failing to ease, it’s actually still getting worse - and that’s with high summer approaching and Covid infections reducing.

“What a damning indictment of Humza Yousaf’s impotent leadership – and his flimsy Covid Recovery Plan.

“It’s completely unacceptable that more than 30% of patients are having to wait four hours or more to be seen – including more than 800 waiting at least half a day - because we know excess delays lead to avoidable deaths.

“The Health Secretary has been found wanting during month after month of dire emergency stats - and last week’s bid to reduce waiting times by asking patients to book scheduled urgent appointments smacked of desperation.

“The roots of Scotland’s A&E crisis lie in dreadful workforce planning by the SNP and a shortage of hospital beds. Until these issues are addressed, dedicated frontline NHS staff will continue to be overwhelmed and patients will continue to die needlessly.”

Scottish LibDem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton added: “The emergency care crisis risks fast becoming the new normal. Staff and patients alike are being taken for granted.

"Waiting times in our A&E departments continue to worsen.

"Everyone needs SNP and Green ministers to be focused on what really matters right now.

"Instead they are devoting tens of millions of pounds to a referendum and putting top officials to work on independence.

"Patients deserve to be seen for treatment quickly and staff shouldn’t be constantly overwhelmed, but that seems less likely than ever.

"The Health Secretary must finally accept the need for an inquiry into avoidable deaths linked to the crisis in emergency care and stop opposing calls for a Burnout Prevention Strategy which would give staff extra protection.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said Scotland continued to have the best performing A&Es in the UK, adding: “The Covid-19 pandemic continues to put pressure on hospitals and services, despite this more than two-thirds of patients are being seen in our A&E departments within the four-hour target.

“We want people to get the right care in the right setting, and for many A&E will not be the most suitable place for their healthcare needs.

“People should consider whether their condition is an emergency, such as a stroke, heart attack or major trauma, before going to A&E. Local GPs can be contacted during the day for non-critical care, as well as local pharmacies.”