ONLY two in five A&E patients were seen on time in one Scottish health board last week, as a third of people nationwide continued to endure excessive waits.

Labour said the figures showed SNP health secretary Humza Yousaf had allowed the health service to descend into "perpetual chaos".

The latest official figures from Public Health Scotland showed only 66.3 per cent of patients were seen within the four-hour target across the country last week, up from 65% the week before.

However in NHS Forth Valley only 42.8% of people going to the emergency department at Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert were seen on time in the seven days to July 31.

The oficial 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 figure has been below 70% in Scotland since the week ending May 22.

There were slight improvements in the weekly data, with the overall number of patients waiting more than four hours falling from 8,955 to 8,034.

The number waiting more than eight hours fell from 2,798 to 2,413, and the number waiting more than 12 hours in casualty fell from 1,064 to 901.

The dips coincided with fewer people attending A&E in the first place, with numbers falling from 25,615 to 24,699.

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

A critical factor is a lack of social care places leading to the delayed discharge of patients medically fit enough to leave hospital.

This in turn creates a shortage of beds, making it harder to process patients through A&E.

After NHS Forth Valley, the worst performing A&E units were in NHS Lanarkshire, where only 57.1% of patients were seen on time, followed by NHS Fife on 60.9%.

Scottish Labour deputy Jackie Baillie said: "Today’s statistics lay bare an NHS forced into perpetual crisis by SNP incompetence. 

"A&E is in disarray, with thousands waiting over eight hours for treatment - but Humza Yousaf is missing in action. 

"Scotland’s A&E services are dangerously overheated because of lack of capacity elsewhere in the NHS system – with lives being put in danger every day. 

"NHS staff are working heroically but they are being failed day in and day out by this government. 

"Lives are being risked on a daily basis through SNP incompetence – but the minister is nowhere to be seen. 

"Humza Yousaf needs to listen to staff and get back to the day job before lives are lost."

Tory MSP Craig Hoy added: “These grim figures show there is no end in sight to the crisis in Scotland’s accident and emergency units. 

“While we’re sadly getting used to seeing appalling stats every week, we can never accept a situation where over 1,000 patients are having to wait over 12 hours to be seen. We know that excessive delays in A&E lead to needless deaths which is why this situation is totally unacceptable.

“The buck stops with the SNP Government for these delays. Appalling workforce planning over many years continues to let down patients and our dedicated but exhausted frontline staff.

“It’s clear Humza Yousaf’s flimsy Covid Recovery Plan isn’t fit for purpose, and he urgently needs a new approach. If things are this bad in summer – when A&E is traditionally quieter – the coming winter doesn’t bear thinking about.” 

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP said: "Anyone who needs medical attention deserves to be seen close to where they live, and in a timely manner, sadly for thousands of Scots each week that sounds like a pipe dream.

"Fifteen years of SNP mismanagement of our NHS has left patients and staff facing an intermible crisis in the middle of summer.

"If they cannot get control of the situation now I dread to think what patients will be confronted with come winter.

"These waits will put lives at risk, and that is frankly unacceptable. We need the Health Secretary to be focussed on this crisis day in day out to prevent this looming winter of chaos for our NHS.

"My party has set out ideas that could help alleviate this crisis, like a burnout prevention strategy and an NHS staff assembly, but this SNP/Green government has just sat by with its fingers in its ears.

"That is not good enough, it's time for them to start listening and get to work to solve this crisis."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Hospital occupancy, Covid inpatient levels and staff absences remain high and continue to impact the delivery of emergency services. Despite this, nearly two-thirds of patients are being seen within four hours of arrival. Scottish A&Es have outperformed the rest of the UK for the last seven years.

“We are investing £50 million to drive down waiting times through our Urgent and Unscheduled Care Collaborative programme, including further development of Flow Navigation Centres in every board which aim to ensure rapid access to a clinician and scheduled appointments, where possible. This will avoid people waiting in A&E waiting rooms unnecessarily.”