THE NUMBER of Scots waiting over 12 hours in A&E has tripled in the last five years.
Shocking new figures show that since April last year, almost 1,700 sick and injured patients had to wait over half a day in accident and emergency.
Between 2010 and 2011, 598 patients spent over 12 hours in A&E but that number soared to 1,692 in the 10 months between April 2014 and January 2015.
A further 11,000 people had to spend at least eight hours waiting to be seen, and over 111,000 were sat for over four hours.
The figures were released by the NHS Information Services Division and show significant increases in waiting times across Scotland.
Patient groups have condemned the “alarming” numbers and said that long waiting times are “hugely distressing” for vulnerable patients.
Compared to last year, an extra 30,000 more sick and injured patients were waiting over four hours to be treated – the target time for hospitals.
Five years ago, 4,191 people across Scotland had to wait more than eight hours to be seen – a figure which has now rocketed by over 200%.
Some hospitals have shown enormous individual increases in waiting times.
Between 2010/2011, 38 patients had to wait over 12 hours in A&E at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde hospitals.
By 2014/2015, this had rocketed to 832 sick and injured people.
The Scottish Government has recently set an interim goal of treating 95% of people within four hours, in advance of meeting the full target of 98%.
They admit that there is “still much to do” with regards to waiting times, and have outlined new plans to improve unscheduled care across the country.
Recent reports show that week-by-week waiting times have improved since January this year, despite an overall decline in previous years.
Katherine Murphy, Chief Executive of the Patients Association, said: “It is alarming to learn that there has been such a deterioration in A&E waiting times in recent years.
“Long arduous waits in emergency departments are hugely distressing for patients; who are at their most vulnerable. Time spent waiting on hospital trolleys robs patients of their dignity and causes additional and unnecessary suffering.
“No patient should ever have to endure two days in A&E. Unless we see proper investment in acute and emergency care, vulnerable older people, children and those with multiple health and social care needs will continue to suffer.”
Health Secretary Shona Robison said: ““Our A&E departments have seen record numbers of patients over the last year and dealt with a challenging winter period.
“Despite those pressures, hardworking NHS staff have continued to see, treat and either discharge or admit to hospital more than 9 out of 10 patients within 4 hours.
“That is a tribute to the doctors and nurses working on the frontline of our NHS and we are determined to go on supporting them.
“There is no doubt that there is still much to do to. Earlier this year we announced our intention to roll out a new approach to improving unscheduled care across Scotland, which is based on a number of principles that have already underpinned improvements in a number of health boards so far.
“We are also investing £100m in tackling delayed discharge, which will allow patients stuck in hospital to get home appropriately, freeing up beds and easing pressure on A&E departments.
“With these crucial steps, we can go on supporting the NHS to deliver the high quality emergency care that patients rightly expect.”
Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: “The number of patients waiting beyond eight hours for medical treatment at A&E seems to be creeping up.
“It’s obviously not acceptable that more people are waiting more than eight hours to see a doctor or nurse when they arrive at their local accident and emergency department.
““It’s time the SNP-led Scottish Government worked on reducing these figures.”
The total number of people attending accident and emergency in the 12 months from March last year to February was 1,644,341, up from 1,613,737 the previous year.
Patients are advised to go to the accident and emergency department if they have a genuine, life-threatening emergency such as persistent, severe chest pains, breathing difficulties or severe bleeding.