THE number of patients waiting more than 12 hours for treatment in A&E has risen by almost 500 in the last week as waiting time performance has declined over the past seven days.

In the most recent data, the numbers facing waits of 12 hours or more rose to 1,510, compared to 1,039 the previous week.

Public Health Scotland’s most recent data showed performance against the four-hour standard was at 64.2% for the week ending October 2. For the week ending September 25, performance stood at 66.3%.

The Scottish Government has set the target of 95% of patients at A&E being admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours.

The weekly figures hit a record low earlier in September, when performance hit 63.5%.

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said the NHS was under significant pressures as the pandemic continues and said health services in the UK and internationally were also affected by the pandemic.

But opposition politicians said his plan to support the NHS through the busy winter months - which he outlined to Holyrood last week - was insufficient and not brought in early enough.

Mr Yousaf said: “A&E departments are working under significant pressure and, in common with healthcare systems in the UK and globally, the pandemic continues to affect services.

“Recovery from the pandemic will not happen overnight and we are working with boards on measures to reduce pressure as we enter what will be a challenging winter period. We are recruiting 1,000 new NHS staff, including 750 frontline nurses from overseas.

“Our £50 million Urgent and Unscheduled Care Collaborative 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 Outpatient Antimicrobial Therapy service also allows patients to be treated at home or in the community and has already saved 45,000 bed days. This week’s A&E statistics are a partial capture as NHS Shetland’s figures were not able to be included.”

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane MSP said: “The SNP have presided over yet another week of disgraceful A&E stats, with the number of patients waiting over eight and 12 hours once again hitting record highs.

“We may have become used to these shameful figures, but that does not change the reality for thousands of patients who have been left waiting in pain and discomfort, for hours upon end.

“Yet despite record numbers of patients waiting more than half a day in our emergency departments, the Health Secretary dismissed nurses who challenged him at the SNP conference this weekend as ‘patronising’.

“Humza Yousaf has no idea of the chaos that patients and hardworking NHS staff are facing, because he refuses to listen to the people on the ground.

“His so-called winter plan is too little and far too late.

“Humza Yousaf needs to stop tinkering at the edges, start listening to NHS workers and produce a coherent strategy to get this crisis under control – or more patients will suffer and die needlessly as a result of his failures.”

Scottish Labour health spokesperson Jackie Baillie said: “The SNP once had a target that 95% of patients would be seen within four hours – now they are not even meeting it for people who have been waiting a shocking 12 hours.

“This is an NHS in deadly freefall due to the incompetence of Humza Yousaf.

“Rather than take action to end this crisis, Humza Yousaf would rather avoid scrutiny and turn his back on frontline NHS staff, who work incredibly hard to keep us safe.

“Years of SNP cuts and neglect have left our NHS unprepared for the level of demand it now faces. With industrial action looming we are facing a humanitarian crisis in the NHS this winter.

“It’s time for Nicola Sturgeon to put her failing Health Secretary into special measures and get to grips with this crisis.”