A&E waiting times deteriorated markedly last week after a brief improvement, with a return to more than a third of patients waiting too long to be seen.

New figures from Public Health Scotland showed the proportion of people seen within the official four-hour target fell from 69.7 to 65.8 per cent in the seven days to May 7.

Opposition parties demanded SNP Health Secretary Michael Matheson take urgent action to address a "crisis" that has shown no sign of abating since winter. 

The data showed a surge in the overall number of people waiting too long, with 9,080 spending more than four hours in casualty, up 21% from 7,499 the week before.

The number of people waiting more than eight hours rose from 1,949 to 2,534, while the number waiting more than 12 hours rose from 622 to 806 (both up 30%).

The worst performing health board last week was NHS Lanarkshire, where 54% of patients were seen on time, down from 61.8% the week before, followed by NHS Forth Valley (58.7%) and NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde (61.2%).

The figure for Glasgow’s flagship Queen Elizabeth University Hospital was just 48.9%.

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.

Last week’s decline wipes out the improvement seen in the seven days to April 30, when 69.7% of patients were seen on time, the highest since 70.2% in late January.

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine has calculated there will be an excess death for every 1 in 72 patients who spend between eight and 12 hours in an A&E. 

Scottish Labour said that implied up to 692 excess deaths in Scotland so far in 2023.   

Deputy Jackie Baillie said: “This is a stark and shocking failure from a government that has pledged for months to get a handle on the crisis facing our A&E.

“These are not mere numbers – these are vulnerable people in need who have been failed by this SNP government. The fact that 9,000 patients have waited over four hours to be seen should never be accepted as the norm.  

“Treatment time standards exist for a reason – it has been shown that long waits result in worse outcomes for patients and even avoidable deaths.  

“The damage long waits cause cannot be understated. Hardworking staff are being pushed to breaking point and they are receiving nothing but warm words from the SNP.

“The SNP’s strategy of managed decline cannot be allowed to extend to our NHS, and their incompetence is costing lives.

“Michael Matheson must work to reverse the damage done by his predecessor by ending delayed discharge, sorting primary care, and ending the chaos in our A&E once and for all.” 

Scottish Tory MSP Dr Sandesh Gulhane said: “Scotland’s A&E departments remain in a permanent state of crisis on the SNP’s watch.

“It should never have become the norm that over a third of patients wait over four hours to be seen, but that is the tragic reality of Humza Yousaf’s legacy for our NHS – as these worsening figures show.

“His flimsy NHS Recovery plan completely failed to remobilise frontline services and it is suffering patients and my dedicated colleagues on the frontline who are paying the price for his disastrous tenure in charge of the health service.

“After failing upwards to become First Minister, he has left an incredible mess behind for Michael Matheson to clear up. It is utterly shocking that hundreds of patients are still waiting over half a day to be seen in A&E despite us being well into the spring period.

“The SNP are engulfed in chaos and A&E services are paying the price for the party of government being distracted from the real priorities of Scotland such as fixing our NHS.” 

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “The SNP/Green Government desperately needs to wake up to the reality of the crisis in Scotland's A&E departments. 

“For all the talk and plans from ministers the situation has barely shifted in months.

"We need to see urgent action from Michael Matheson to resolve the crisis in our A&E departments.”