SCOTLAND’S A&E units remain in “crisis”, opposition parties have claimed, after the latest figures showed barely any improvement in waiting times.

Public Health Scotland reported more than a third of patients waited more than the official four-hour waiting target last week, while the overall numbers affected going up.

The total waiting too long in the seven days to November 13 was 9,108 compared to 8,760 the week before.

However in percentage terms there was a modest improvement from 65.1 to 65.3 per cent seen on time, as total attendances also increased, from 25,124 to 26,280.

The number of patients enduring extreme waits fell slightly, with those waiting more than eight hours down from 3,021 to 2,912 and 12-hour waiters down from 1,354 to 1,036.

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 it has been for some time - was NHS Forth Valley, where 51.8% of A&E patients were seen within four hours, down from 54.4%.

In NHS Lanarkshire it was 56.4% and in NHS Fife it was 59.1%.

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.

Opposition partieds demanded Nicola Sturgeon sack her health secretary Humza Yousaf, who has warned the waiting time performance will “fluctuate” this winter.

The First Minister has so far expressed her full confidence in him.

But Tory MSP Dr Sandesh Gulhane said: “These dire statistics expose yet again how Humza Yousaf is presiding over complete chaos in our A&E departments.

“Despite the best efforts of my colleagues on the frontline, more and more lives are being needlessly lost and the responsibility for that lies squarely with the failing Health Secretary.

“Frontline staff and suffering patients have lost all faith in Humza Yousaf to turn around the crisis in our health service – and now we know chief executives feel the same, given their alarming discussions on creating a two-tier Scotland’s NHS.

“As the winter period looms ever closer for our NHS, I dread to think how bad it will get for patients turning up at our emergency departments.

“Nicola Sturgeon should stop dithering. She must accept Humza Yousaf is failing Scotland's NHS and sack him.”

Scottish Labour deputy Jackie Baillie said: “These grim figures show that our A&E is still in crisis.

“Our hardworking NHS staff and their patients are facing immensely challenging conditions, and there is little reassurance that things will improve as we head into winter.

“Our vital health services are being pushed to the point that they are now under real threat of privatisation on the SNP's watch as they have continually failed to support the NHS or its staff. 

“We must tackle this crisis urgently before the disastrous stewardship of Humza Yousaf puts any more lives at risk.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton added: "This is yet another week of catastrophically long waits in A&E on Humza Yousaf's watch. The SNP's mismanagement of our NHS is getting so severe that NHS bosses have discussed extreme solutions like charging for care and ambulance workers are set to go on strike.

"It is mindboggling that just last week the First Minister declared she had full confidence in her Health Secretary. Nicola Sturgeon should try telling that to embattled staff and patients.

“Despite everything, Humza Yousaf has opposed and voted down Liberal Democrat calls for a burnout prevention strategy, a staff assembly that values their expertise and an urgent inquiry into the avoidable deaths linked to the crisis in emergency care.

"The NHS desperately needs to see Humza Yousaf come forward with a new plan to cut waiting times and end the chaos in emergency care. If he can’t do that, he should go."

Responding to the latest data, Mr Yousaf said: “This week we have seen increased pressure on services, with overall attendances rising by more than 1,000.

“Despite this there has been a further improvement in performance over four hours and a decrease in patients waiting more than eight hours.

“We have also seen a 23.5% drop in the number of patients waiting over 12 hours.

“This is welcome, but I am clear we will continue to see fluctuations in performance over winter.

“Delayed discharge is the single biggest factor driving up A&E waits and we are working with health boards to ensure people leave hospital without delay, freeing up vital beds for those who need them most.

“A key focus of our winter plan is on social care and actions to encourage authorities to help ease delays.”

He said a £600 million plan aims to recruit 1,000 new staff for the NHS.