SNP under fire as figures show hospital waiting times rising

Waiting times for hospital treatments and tests on the NHS have got worse over the past year, leading to accusations that the Scottish Government is being distracted by calls for a second independence referendum.

Targets are being missed on waiting times for diagnostic tests. Picture: Getty Images

New figures have revealed nearly one in five NHS patients are waiting longer than the target of 12 weeks to be treated in hospital.

The proportion of patients waiting longer than the legally binding Treatment Time Guarantee has more than doubled in the past year, with 82.1 per cent receiving being treated within 12 weeks in the first three months of this year, compared with 92.7 per cent in the same period in 2016.

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Health Secretary Shona Robison responded with a promise of £50 million investment to reduce waiting times.

The latest set of figures for NHS Scotland also reveal that in March, 84.2 per cent of patients had their treatment start within 18 weeks of being referred, down three points on the same time last year.

NHS Scotland has missed the target of 90 per cent since June 2014. Just four out of 14 individual health boards are meeting the required standard.

The proportion of patients waiting less than six weeks for diagnostic tests also fell, from 94.6 per cent in the three months to 31 March 2016, to 86.7 per cent in the first three months of 2017.

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Donald Cameron said: “These figures reveal that the SNP are continuing to let down patients, while showing a complete lack of urgency when it comes to sorting out the blatantly obvious problems which beset the NHS in Scotland.

“People are growing ever more frustrated that, instead of doing everything in their power to address these abysmal figures, the SNP has constantly brushed statistics aside and opted to push for an unwanted independence referendum instead.”

Labour health spokesman Anas Sarwar said patients were paying the price of the SNP’s “separation obsession”.

Mr Sarwar said: “The SNP is breaking its own laws for thousands of patients every month because Nicola Sturgeon and Health Secretary Shona Robison only care about independence, not patients and our hard-working NHS staff.”

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP said: “On the day that Nicola Sturgeon launches the SNP manifesto, she should be personally apologising to the tens of thousands of patients who have waited longer than promised because of her government’s obsession with independence.”

Ms Robison said NHS Scotland had cut waiting lists for outpatient consultations by almost a fifth in the first quarter of this year, and would direct additional funds received through the Barnett Formula in the Budget towards cutting waiting times for diagnostic tests and treatment.

She said: “While it is encouraging to see an improvement in outpatient performance, I absolutely recognise the need to do more to reduce waiting times – particularly when it comes to the 12-week Treatment Time Guarantee for inpatient and day cases.”