Opponents rounded on the Scottish Government yesterday as official statistics revealed that performance has plunged in a number of key areas.
More than 16,500 patients were forced to wait 18 weeks between referral and treatment – the worst performance for five-and-a-half years – while hospitals are also failing to meet a separate target stating that patients must be treated within 12 weeks.
The raft of reports from the Information Services Division (ISD) of NHS Scotland also revealed that, in September, almost 6,500 patients had waited longer than six weeks for diagnostic tests such as MRI scans and CT scans in breach of Government targets while accident and emergency departments are still failing to meet waiting times standards.
Scottish Labour health spokesman Anas Sarwar said: “These damning figures show the consequences of the SNP”s mismanagement of the NHS.
“Declining performance in key areas means patients are waiting longer for treatment. That just isn”t good enough.”
Under-fire Health Secretary Shona Robison yesterday admitted that scheduled care was “simply short of what we expect” as she announced a new approach to outpatient appointments which she said will see patients treated more quickly in a local setting.
The Scottish Government is committed to treating 90 per cent of patients within 18 weeks of referral, but has rarely met the target since the low of 83.7 per cent in February 2011.
Latest figures show that, in September, just 84.7 per cent were treated within the specified period – meaning that 16,635 were forced to wait beyond the four-and-a-half month target.
Scottish Conservative health spokesman Donald Cameron said it was “appalling that performance in this area is the worst it”s been in five-and-a-half years”.
He added: “This is yet another grim report revealing how the NHS is being allowed to decline on the SNP”s watch.”
A separate target demands that all patients start treatment within 12 weeks of it being agreed.
But latest figures showed that, at the end of September, just 78.7 per cent of outpatients waiting for an appointment had been waiting less than 12 weeks – down from 85.6 per cent at the end of June.
And, over the quarter July to September, only 88.9 per cent of inpatients and day cases were seen within the 12-week period – down from 91.3 per cent on the previous three months.
Meanwhile, other figures showed that, by the end of September, there were 65,367 patients waiting for one of the eight key diagnostic tests – and almost 6,500 had been waiting longer than six weeks. Cancer Research UK described the situation as “deeply concerning”.
It came as it emerged that, in the week ending November 20, just 91.6 per cent of patients attending A&E were seen within four hours – the lowest percentage since early March and well below the 95 per cent target.
Ms Robison”s new outpatient strategy proposes that some patients, particularly those who are waiting for a routine check-up or test results, would be seen closer to home by a team of community health professionals with close links to hospital departments.
But the chair of BMA Scotland, Dr Peter Bennie, warned it is “essential” that the move “does not simply move pressures from one part of the NHS to another”.