Accident and emergency waiting times in Scotland for December were the worst ever recorded, new figures have revealed.
In the final month of 2022, 62.1% of patients in A&E were seen and either admitted, transferred or discharged within the 4-hour target time, figures from Public Health Scotland showed. The Scottish Government has set the target of having 95% of patients dealt with within this time – with the December figures the lowest monthly total recorded against this target, down from 67.5% in the previous month.
However, separate weekly data showed performance against the waiting times target has increased for the last 4 weeks. In the week ending January 29, 70.3% of A&E patients were admitted, transferred or discharged within 4 hours – up from 70.1% the previous week and significantly above the 55.9% recorded in the week ending January 1.
With the NHS having come under severe pressure this winter, the week ending December 18 saw just 55.1% of patients in A&E receive care within the 4-hour target time. In the final full week of January. a total of 22,430 people attended at A&E departments across Scotland, with 6662 patients there for longer than 4 hours. That includes 1996 patients who were there for 8 hours or more, with 851 people spending longer than half a day in A&E.
Meanwhile, the December figures showed that 129,745 people went to A&E that month. Of those, 19,131 patients were there for 8 hours or more with 8658 spending 12 hours or longer in the emergency room. Just over a quarter (25.6%) of patients who went to A&E in December ended up being admitted to hospital, the figures showed.
NHS Lanarkshire recorded the worst performance for A&E waiting times in December, with just 45% of patients admitted, transferred or discharged within 4 hours.
Data Reveals 'Scale of the Crisis' in A&E Wards
Conservative health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane said the "catastrophic figures" for December highlighted the "scale of the crisis in Scotland’s A&E wards" under Health Secretary Humza Yousaf.
Dr Gulhane said: "They indicate more than 250 patients needlessly died due to excess waits in Scotland’s emergency wards in December, using Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) methodology."
He added: "That terrifying toll is no reflection on dedicated frontline staff who are doing all they can despite being overstretched and under-resourced.
"Dire workforce planning by a succession of SNP health secretaries has left our NHS desperately short of medical staff – including nurses and emergency doctors – while Humza Yousaf’s flimsy COVID and winter recovery plans are not fit for purpose.
"The health secretary should resign or be sacked for his chronic mismanagement of Scotland’s health service."
Speaking about the latest weekly statistics, the Health Secretary said: "Today’s figures are a further improvement on last week, which was the best performance since May.
"Despite continued pressure, we have seen further decreases in patients waiting longer than 8 and 12 hours for treatment, with waits of over 8 hours decreasing by more than 60% since the recent winter peak and 12-hour waits going down by over 66%."
Mr Yousaf added that the December figures "highlight the scale of the challenge our Boards faced at the height of winter".
"We will continue to see fluctuations in figures over winter; however, weekly performance over 4 hours is the best we have seen in 8 months and recent progress is down to the hard work of our NHS staff and I am grateful for their continued exceptional efforts."
He went on to stress: "Addressing delayed discharge remains of critical importance across our NHS and I am encouraged to see things moving in the right direction with a reduction of 7% in delayed discharge between November and December 2022.
"Additional funding was also put in place early this year for additional interim care beds and hopefully that will start to make an all-too-important difference. We will continue to work tirelessly with health and social care partnerships to ensure this trend continues."
This article contains information from PA Media