WAITING time performance in Scotland’s A&E units has rebounded after a record low, but more than a third of patients still waited too long for treatment last week.

The latest figures from Public Health Scotland showed 66.2 per cent of patients were seen within the official four-hour target in the seven days to September 18.

Although this was up on the previous week’s 63.5% - the worst level since records began in early 2015 - it was below where it had been in the week ending September 4.

As attendances fell from 27,216 to 26,403, total numbers of patients waiting too long also fell, with those waiting more than four hours down from a record 9,924 to 8,931.

The number of people waiting more than eight hours fell from a record 3,381 to 2,697, while the number waiting more than 12 hours dropped from 1,266 to 998.

Opposition parties said the situation going into the health service’s peak winter season remained dire and demanded more action from SNP Health Secretary Humza Yousaf.

Mr Yosuaf welcomed the "immediate improvement", noting a a 20% fall in the number of people waiting longer than eight hours, and a 21% drop in those waiting 12 hours or more.

The official 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

The worst performing health board last week - as in most recent weeks - was NHS Forth Valley, where 46.3% of patients were seen on time.

In NHS Fife it was 56% and in NHS Lanarkshire 60%. 

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

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

This creates an overall shortage of beds, making it harder to advance patients through A&E.

Tory MSP Dr Sandesh Gulhane said: “These latest awful figures are further evidence of the scale of the crisis in Scotland’s A&E wards that Humza Yousaf is presiding over.

“It’s unacceptable that more than one-third of people are having to wait over four hours to be seen because we know that excess delays lead to needless deaths.

“Patients and dedicated frontline staff are being let down by years of dire NHS workforce planning from successive SNP Health Secretaries.

“The current Health Secretary must also accept that the buck stops with him – and his flimsy Covid Recovery Plan – instead of trying to pass it to shattered and over-stretched staff, who were rightly furious when he did so last week.

“In recent days, research by the Scottish Conservatives has revealed the shocking reality in our A&E departments – with one patient waiting 84 hours to be seen in Ayrshire and Arran, while Edinburgh’s Royal Infirmary was over-capacity for every hour of every day last month.

“We can’t go on like this. Humza Yousaf must finally get a grip or winter – when the pressures on A&E grow further – doesn’t bear thinking about.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP said emergency care "cannot carry on like this".

He said: "We cannot allow this scale of waits in our A&E departments to simply become the new normal, as our Health Secretary seems content to allow.

“Ministers have sat on their hands long enough while the NHS suffers. The Scottish Government’s Recovery Plan has failed. The Health Secretary must come to Parliament with a new plan in time for this winter before the crisis deepens further.

“Humza Yousaf must also commit to an urgent inquiry into the avoidable deaths linked to the crisis in emergency care and stop opposing our calls for a Burnout Prevention Strategy which would give staff extra protection.”

After last week’s record lows, Mr Yousaf admitted the NHS faced an “exceptionally difficult winter”, including the “high possibility” of another Covid wave and a surge in flu cases.

He said today that A&E departments were “working under significant pressure”, adding that “in common with healthcare systems in the UK and globally, the pandemic continues to affect services”.

He said: "I am grateful to NHS staff for their hard work and commitment during this period of continued challenge.

“We are working closely with boards to reduce pressure on hospitals, including our £50 million Urgent and Unscheduled Care Collaborative which looks to drive down A&E waits by offering alternatives to hospital, such as Hospital at Home; directing people to more appropriate urgent care settings and scheduling urgent appointments to avoid long waits.

“The roll-out of our Out-patient Antimicrobial Therapy service also allows patients to be treated at home or in the community and has already saved 45,000 bed days.”