THE number of patients enduring extreme waits in Scotland’s A&E departments has crept up again after a brief improvement.

The latest official figures from Public Health Scotland show 66.3 per cent of people attending A&E last week were seen within the four-hour target, up from 66.2% the week before.

However, while the overall number waiting more than four hours fell from 8,935 to 8,722 in the week ending September 25, the number waiting more than eight and 12 hours rose.

The total waiting more than eight hours increased from 2,697 to 2,864, and those waiting more than half a day from 998 to 1,039. 

It followed both measures improving the previous week, and was inspite of attendances falling last week from 26,409 to 25,900.

The release of the figures coincided with publication of the monthly figures for casualty waits, which showed compliance with the four-hour target at a new record low of 69.7% in August, down from 69.9% in July.

Just after the SNP came to power, the monthly average was 96.6% in July 2007.

SNP Health Secretary Humza Yousaf is due to make a parliamentary statement on the NHS winter plan at Holyrood this afternoon. 

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 39.6% of patients were seen on time.

In NHS Fife it was 55.4% and in NHS Lanarkshire 58.1%. 

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 appalling waiting times may have become the norm on Humza Yousaf’s watch, but we cannot simply accept this shameful state of affairs.

“August’s A&E waiting times are the worst on record across every category, seeing tens of thousands of patients suffering excess delays despite the best efforts of overwhelmed frontline staff.

“The fact that these figures cover the height of summer is frankly terrifying – and it’s chilling to imagine the state of our A&Es come winter.

“The Health Secretary’s flimsy NHS Recovery plan is now well over a year old and we’ve only seen our health service lurch deeper into crisis.  

“Humza Yousaf is now belatedly bringing forward a statement on winter planning and this time, it has to deliver. 

“Lives are at stake and the Scottish public will not accept any more of his excuses.”

Scottish Labour deputy Jackie Baillie said: “Humza Yousaf continues to be a record breaker - every month he takes his previous record-busting failure and fails even more badly. 

“He has shown himself thoroughly incapable of this challenge and it is high time he is put into special measures. We cannot have a serial failure like Mr Yousaf in charge of our NHS. 

“Scots cannot continue to be let down by this incompetent government, and neither can our hardworking NHS staff. 

“Winter is looming – if action is not taken now we risk a humanitarian crisis in A&E departments. The SNP must act now to prevent further casualties at the hands of their inept health secretary.” 

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: "Ministers have sat on their hands long enough while the NHS suffers. Patients and staff cannot carry on like this.

"When Humza Yousaf comes to Holyrood this afternoon he has to set out a serious new strategy to address this crisis. More of the same will not cut it. 

"He must drop his opposition to an inquiry into the avoidable deaths linked to the crisis in emergency care. He must also adopt Lib Dem plans for a Burnout Prevention Strategy, which would give staff extra protection, and a Health and Social Care Staff Assembly to put their expertise at the heart of the response to this crisis.”