Rise in patients waiting over four hours in casualty
Leader Johann Lamont accused First Minister Alex Salmond of not caring about the issue as the two rivals clashed at Holyrood.
She claimed that the SNP leader was promoting independence at the expense of improving Scotland’s NHS, with patients left waiting on trolleys and in corridors.
National standards in Scotland state that at least 98 per cent of people in A&E should be either admitted, transferred for treatment or discharged from hospital within four hours of arriving in the department.
However, Ms Lamont said that freedom of information requests to health boards across Scotland showed a dramatic increase in the number of patients waiting for longer than that in some areas.
Scotland’s biggest health board – Greater Glasgow – saw the number rise from 10,100 in 2009 to 31,700 this year.
There was also a sharp rise in the number of patients waiting longer than four hours in Lanarkshire, with the figure soaring from 4,314 in 2009 to 11,393 at the end of 2012. Grampian had a 1,300 increase in such patients during the last year alone, while the number of patients waiting more than four hours in Ayrshire and Arran rose from 2,375 in 2009 to 9,646 this year.
Ms Lamont said the figures showed Mr Salmond “doesn’t care about the NHS patient” as she highlighted the case of 84-year-old John McGarrity who was said to have spent eight hours on a trolley in a corridor at Glasgow’s Western Infirmary.
The row came after a critical report by Audit Scotland earlier this year raised concerns about boards potentially manipulating waiting times so as not to breach targets.
Separate figures recently showed that 323 patients were left waiting for more than 12 hours in A&E in December – the highest level since waiting times began to be measured in July 2007.
Ms Lamont blamed the crisis on Mr Salmond as she accused the First Minister of failing to intervene to increase resources for A&E departments.
“He only cares about SNP slogans. In this country under Salmond, Scotland is lying on a trolley while his referendum is in intensive care,” she said.
However, the First Minister said that health secretary Alex Neil announced a plan for “reinforcing the staff and resources at accident and emergency units across Scotland” so that the “position can be improved”.
“The capacity of our accident and emergency units has substantially increased under this government, the number of diagnoses and treatments carried out in hospitals, in A&E departments, are up by 6 per cent since 2006-7 under this government,” he said.
Health boards highlighted by Labour said A&E departments faced increasing demands, but insisted waiting times would be improved.