New figures have reveal that almost 10% of Scottish patients have had to wait for longer than the four hour target to be seen in Accident and Emergency Departments.
The data, released by NHS Scotland’s Information Services Division, shows that during the quarter ending 31st December 2012, “the proportion of new and unplanned attendances at all A&E services across Scotland that were seen and discharged within 4 hours was; 94.4% October, 93.5% November and 90.3% December.”
It goes on to note that:
“During December 2012, the number of new and unplanned attendances at A&E services across Scotland that spent more than 12 hours in the department was 323 (0.2%), the highest figure recorded since July 2007.”
The figures follow the publication last week of a critical report by Audit Scotland which raised serious concerns about some health boards potentially manipulating waiting times so as not to breach set targets.
Responding to the findings, Scottish health secretary Alex Neil pinned the blame for the increasing waiting times on a bad winter.
Pledging extra funding to tackle the problem, he commented:
“I have already made clear that we are taking significant action to improve unscheduled care in Scotland to make sure people are seen and treated in our hospitals and as quickly as possible,” he said.
“Changing the whole system takes time, which is why – as part of that investment package of £50m – we will be doubling our winter planning fund to £6 million this winter.”
Labour’s shadow health Secretary Jackie Baillie argued that the data showed that “patients are now paying the price for the SNP’s failure to address the underlying problems in our NHS.”
Calling for answers meanwhile, Scottish Conservative health spokesperson Jackson Carlow said:
“This problem has been getting progressively worse, and now we know the true extent of the crisis.
“The Scottish government must explain why it was a whisker away from hitting these targets in past years, only to be now spectacularly missing them.
“This is the latest in Nicola Sturgeon’s disintegrating legacy as health secretary, leaving her successor with an unenviable task of clearing up the mess she left behind.”