A&E waits worsened during Humza Yousaf’s last month as Health Secretary, official figures have revealed, prompting renewed criticism of the First Minister’s competence. 

Public Health Scotland data showed the number of patients seen within the official four hour target fell from 69.6 to 68 per cent in March.

The number of patients enduring extreme waits above eight and 12 hours also increased.

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.

When Mr Yousaf became Health Secretary in May 2021, the figure was 87.2%.

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Although the March figure was an improvement on December’s all-time low of 62.1%, it continued a pattern of stagnation in A&E waits seen since last summer.

During March, 14,419 people, or 11.6% of all attendees, waited longer than eight hours in A&E in Scotland, up from 10,897 people (10.1%) in February.

The number waiting more than 12 hours also rose from 4,915 to 6,094, or from 4.6% of all patients to 4.9%. 

Public Health Scotland also published weekly data for the seven days to April 23 showing a slight improvement in waiting time performance.

Last week 66.2% of patients were seen on time, up from 63.2% the previous week, although this continuing a trend that has not seen the figure rise above 70% since January.

There were however declines in the number of patients waiting more than eight hours - down from 2,796 to 2,652 - and 12 hours, down from 971 to 933, last week.

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Tory MSP Dr Sandesh Gulhane said the “dire figures” exposed Mr Yousaf’s “disastrous” time in charge of the NHS before he became First Minister at the end of March.

He said: “He was the worst health secretary since devolution yet he was, astonishingly, rewarded with promotion to Bute House. In his last month as health secretary, thousands more patients were waiting to be seen than when he first took on the job – including a disgraceful number who had to wait over half a day to be seen.

“Humza Yousaf has left an enormous mess for his successor – Michael Matheson – to clear up as a result of his flimsy NHS Recovery plan failing to remobilise frontline services.

“Despite the best efforts of my dedicated colleagues on the frontline, more and more patients are suffering due to the inaction of the man who is now First Minister.”

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Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton added: “These figures for A&E performance for Humza Yousaf's final month as Health Secretary must be an unwelcome parting gift for his successor Michael Matheson. 

“He cannot allow himself and the rest of the SNP to remain distracted by their obsession with breaking up the UK and by the crisis in their own party.

"The crisis in our A&E departments has gone on for so long now it is quickly becoming the norm for patients and staff across Scotland. That is a totally unacceptable state of affairs."

Mr Matheson said the Government was supporting health boards to manage the “significant pressure” still weighing on services and the social care system since the Covid pandemic.

He said: “The Scottish Government’s national improvement advisers are providing logistical support to the boards in a range of areas, including discharge planning, department configuration and pathway development and are in sites regularly to assist with the practical implementation of the boards’ improvement plans.”