Scottish Labour accused Humza Yousaf of “dangerous negligence” and warned A&E departments had gone into a “deadly freefall” under his watch.
The party pointed to statistics which show that between January and October this year, some 42,100 people spent more than 12 hours in A&E waiting to be seen. This came despite a commitment by the Scottish Government that 95 per cent of patients attending emergency departments would be dealt with within four hours.
Jackie Baillie, the party’s health spokeswoman, warned lives were being put at risk, and said the spike in long waits dwarfed those seen in previous years. The 42,100 figure, she said, compared with 13,229 patients in the whole of last year, and was almost ten times higher than the total for 2020, when 4,266 people waited for 12 hours or more.
It comes as a new analysis by the Scottish Conservatives condemned the “complete chaos” at A&E, with some 56,228 patients waiting at least 12 hours since Mr Yousaf was appointed health secretary after the Holyrood elections in May 2021.
In Mr Yousaf’s first week in the post, 113 patients had to wait half a day or more, the Tories said. But by the week ending December 4, they added, a total of 1,276 patients spent at least 12 hours in emergency rooms.
Ms Baillie said: “The facts are plain for all to see – Scotland’s A&E services have been plunged into a deadly freefall by Humza Yousaf’s dangerous negligence. Despite the efforts of hard-working staff, the number of patients spending a shocking 12 hours waiting in A&E has soared this year, dwarfing previous years and putting lives at risk.”
Conservative health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane said: “Everyone knows Humza Yousaf is presiding over complete chaos in our A&E departments, but this exposes just how catastrophic his tenure has been.
“He has long given up on hitting the four-hour waiting time target, but now we see the staggering rise in patients waiting half a day or more on his watch.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The situation we find ourselves in is the result of pandemic backlogs, Brexit-related staff shortages and increases in winter viruses such as flu, which has seen a significant rise in the last few weeks, making this winter the most challenging the NHS has ever faced.
“This is, of course, not unique to Scotland. Scotland’s A&E continues to outperform A&E services across the UK. Scotland already has record numbers of NHS staff and we are recruiting more staff as part of our £600 million winter plan and [a] £50m investment is targeting A&E waits through services that allow patients to be treated at home or in the community.
“We know the difficulties staff are facing and want to repeat our thanks to all those working across all health and social care services this winter to make sure people receive the care they need.”