Only half of Scots get physiotherapy appointment within four weeks

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NHS waiting time targets are being missed for more than half the people in Scotland who need services such as physiotherapy or occupational therapy, official figures show.

ISD Scotland statistics reveal 49.9% of musculoskeletal patients waiting for a first appointment with a physiotherapist, occupational therapist, podiatrist, chiropodist or orthotic services were seen within the government’s four-week target.

The figures cover the quarter ending June 30 this year and 81,762 patients had a first appointment in this time.

More than one in 10 (12%) of patients in the same period waited more than 16 weeks for an appointment.

In one health board, NHS Lanarkshire, the proportion of patients seen within the target for the quarter ending June 30 fell to 25.1% while NHS Shetland saw 74.7% of its patients in the target time.

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The waiting time target was introduced in 2016 and since then Scottish Labour claim it has been broken 317,633 times.

The party’s health spokesman Anas Sarwar said: “Whilst Nicola Sturgeon has spent two years trying and failing to build support for a second independence referendum tens of thousands of NHS patients have been left in pain.

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“It would be regrettable for one patient to wait over a month for treatment, for this promise to have been broken more than 300,000 is nothing short of a national scandal.

“Our NHS simply does not have enough staff or funding from the SNP government. Failing patients has now become the norm under Nicola Sturgeon.”

Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary Miles Briggs said the statistics reveal a “complete failure of government”.

He added: “It’s bad enough that more than half are missing the target, but in some health boards the picture is even more bleak.

“These statistics won’t even include those whose pain is so great they can’t wait for the NHS, and are instead forced to go private.”

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “Every day waiting to see a specialist can cause people with musculoskeletal conditions to have their activity limited and be left in pain.

“Less than half of patients now start to receive the physio they need within the four week waiting time standard. This holds back their recovery and demands an urgent explanation from the Scottish Government.”

Cabinet Secretary for Health Jeane Freeman added: “Almost half of patients are seen within four weeks and over one third of patients waiting for a first clinical appointment with the service are waiting four weeks or less.

“We are aware this needs to improve and we will continue our work to bring down waiting times. This includes sharing learning from best performing boards and working with other boards to identify local solutions and new models of care.”