WAITING times in Scotland’s A&E units improved across a range of benchmarks last week, but more than 30 per cent of patients still waited too long to be seen.

Public Health Scotland reported the percentage of people seen with in the four-hour target in the week to March 5 rose from 64.5 to 69%.

This was just below the year high of 70.3% recorded in the last week of January.

However more half of patients waited too long in some major city hospitals, with just 45.5% seen on time at Edinburgh’s Royal Infirmary, 47.1% at Forth Valley Royal Hospital, and 48% at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

The total number of patients waiting more than four hours last week fell from 8,629 to 7,428, with the number waiting more eight hours down from 2,983 to 2,300 and the number waiting more than 12 hours falling from 1,275 to 916.

The figures ended a month-long run of the statistics going in the wrong direction.

The target is for 95% of patients to be admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours.

It has not been met nationally since July 2020.

The worst performing health board last week was NHS Forth Valley, where 47.1% of patients were seen on time, followed by NHS Borders (59.1%) and NHS Grampian (61.1%).

Tory MSP Sandesh Gulhane said: “Waiting times in Scotland’s A&E wards remain appalling and unacceptable, despite a modest improvement as the peak winter pressures on the NHS ease.

“The reality is that more than 30 per cent of patients are not being seen within four hours, and close to 1,000 people in the space of just seven days waited more than half a day.

“Tragically, lives are being needlessly lost because of these excess delays.

“Patients and hard-working frontline staff continue to be let down by Humza Yousaf’s flimsy recovery plans and the dire workforce planning of successive SNP health secretaries, which has left Scotland’s NHS dangerously overstretched.”  

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “We were all told by Humza Yousaf that his NHS Recovery Plan would finally see improvements made but it has comprehensively failed.

“This will no doubt leave people wondering how on earth he will suddenly be able to turn things around if he becomes First Minister, especially since he has still not articulated a single thing he would do differently.

"He certainly cannot continue to oppose our constructive proposals such as an urgent inquiry into the hundreds of avoidable deaths linked to the emergency care crisis, a burnout prevention strategy and a health and social care staff assembly.  

“The patients waiting hours for treatment know the impact of the SNP's ministerial disinterest on the country.

"They are being taken for granted. The SNP's priority will never be our NHS - it will always be their obsession with breaking up the UK.” 

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “We are doing everything we can to support the health service through the remainder of the most challenging winter in its history.

“While we continue to see fluctuations in figures from week to week and month to month, I am pleased to see an improvement in weekly performance.

“The entire health and social care system is still under pressure given the impact of the Covid pandemic, which continues to impact on performance.”

He said the Scottish Government is increasing NHS 24 staffing and providing up to £8million for health boards to alleviate pressure from delayed discharge.