Scotland’s NHS is facing a mounting crisis as a record 400,000 people are currently waiting to see a specialist, with almost half having already waited for more than 12 weeks for an appointment.
Official statistics out today show that there was a growth in the NHS activity in the three months to the end of June – but the number of patients seen was still well down on the 2019 average.
As of June 30, as many as 115,253 patients were awaiting a diagnostic test – 30.3 per cent higher than the average before the pandemic.
Outpatient activity is also down by some 22 per cent on pre-pandemic figures with 396,771 people awaiting their first outpatient appointment, of which some 39.1 per cent had already waited over 16 weeks.
Some 96,557 people are also currently waiting on lists covered by the Treatment Time Guarantee, with 61.4 per cent of these people waiting over 12 weeks.
It comes as eight of the top 20 covid hotspots in Europe are currently in Scotland, according to the latest World Health Organisation statistics.
NHS Lanarkshire and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde sit in first and second respectively in the league table of worst-hit regions across the continent.
Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour’s health spokeswoman, said: “These statistics plainly show that our NHS is struggling to keep up with clinical demand and thousands of Scots are in danger as a result.
“The pandemic has caused the backlog to grow, but having well over half a million Scots stuck on hospital waiting lists is deeply concerning.
“We all stood on our doorstep, clapping for our NHS heroes, but now the SNP has failed to appreciate the scale of the challenge that staff and patients face.
“It’s all too clear that the SNP has catastrophically failed to protect and then re-mobilise our NHS and the crisis in our A&E services is continuing to spiral out of control.
“The SNP’s flimsy NHS Recovery Plan is simply not up to the task of rebuilding our NHS.
“It’s high time that Humza Yousaf listened to NHS staff on the frontline and acted now to ensure that they are able to do their vital roles.”
Scottish Conservative health spokeswoman Annie Wells said: “Alarm bells have been ringing for some time with these shocking A&E waiting time figures. Services across health boards, including Glasgow, now seem to be at breaking point.
“Humza Yousaf’s inaction has stretched our NHS to the point where health boards have been forced to send people away from medical care unless it’s for a life-threatening emergency.
“People are struggling to access care and the knock-on impact is reducing services across our NHS, despite the huge efforts of hospital staff.
“The SNP need to urgently get more people in to see GPs in person and launch Long Covid clinics immediately to ease the pressure on other frontline services.
“Waiting times are growing rapidly, approaching the worst-ever levels. They are even longer than at the height of the pandemic. Over 100,000 people are waiting for vital diagnostic tests, including cancer results.
“The government’s NHS recovery plan arrived too late to prevent this crisis and now, they need to heed these warnings and get a grip of this worrying situation before it spirals out of control.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “While its welcome that activity has increased for quarter ending 30 June 2021 compared to the previous quarter, the effects of the pandemic on our NHS are evident.
“That’s why we published our £1 billion NHS Recovery Plan last week, setting out our plans and ambitions to increase capacity, reform the system and ultimately get everyone the treatment they need as quickly as possible.
“More than two million inpatients and day cases have benefited from the 12-weeks treatment target since it was introduced, however pausing non-urgent activity during the pandemic has inevitably led to a build-up of numbers waiting for treatment.”
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