By Harry Bell 

The Scottish Government must take urgent action to prevent A&E waiting times spiraling out of control, Scottish Labour has warned.

Statistics published today have revealed in May this year only 87 per cent of A&E patients were seen within the four-hour target.

Some 1,782 people were made to wait more than eight hours and 407 people were not treated within 12 hours of arriving at A&E.

Despite a considerable drop (13.7 per cent) in the number of people attending A&E compared to May 2019, today’s statistics show that the proportion of people being admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours has fallen and more people are waiting longer for treatment.

Last week, the Royal College for Emergency Medicine reported serious shortages on the NHS frontline and warned that many medics are at risk of burnout.  

With A&E attendance now at its highest since the beginning of the pandemic, Scottish Labour has called for action from Humza Yousaf to prevent an “A&E crisis.”

Scottish Labour health spokesperson Jackie Baillie said:  “These statistics plainly show that our A&E services are under increasing strain and that the Scottish Government’s eye is simply not on the ball.

“We cannot have thousands of patients in pain for hours and hours in A&E clinics but unless other services are properly remobilised patients will feel they have nowhere else to turn.

“It’s high time that the SNP government takes action to support and properly resource frontline medics so that an A&E crisis can be averted.”


The number of people attending A&E in May 2021 was at the highest level since February 2020 (pre-pandemic).

Compared with May 2019, despite lower numbers attending, a higher proportion of people waited over 4 hours – 12.9% compared with 9.3%. More people also waited over 8 hours and 12 hours in A&E in May 2021 compared with May 2019 – table below.

During May 2021:  

  • There were 129,444 attendances at A&E services in Scotland.  
  • 87.1% of attendances at A&E services were seen and resulted in a subsequent admission, transfer or discharge within 4 hours.  
  • 1,782 (1.4%) patients spent more than 8 hours in an A&E department.  
  • 407 (0.3%) patients spent more than 12 hours in an A&E department.  
  • 26.9% of attendances led to an admission to hospital. 

    Compared with May 2019:  

  May 2019 May 2021 % difference
Attendances 153,083 129,444 -13.7%
% seen in 4 hours 90.7% 87.1% -4%
Number waiting over 8 hours 1,163 1,782 53.2%
Noumber waiting over 12 hours 204 407 99.5%


Meanwhile, Scottish Liberal Democrats have called on the SNP to address their “legacy” of delayed discharges, as new figures show the number of patients getting stuck in hospital is creeping back up once again.

New figures show that in May 2021, the average number of beds occupied per day due to delayed discharges was 1,140. This number has been increasing since the emergency interventions at the beginning of the pandemic.  

 The census showed that health and social care reasons accounted for over half (58%) of the delays reported, as the reason behind delays for 531 patients.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie MSP, pictured,  said: “Successive SNP governments have categorically failed to get systems in place so that patients can move from hospital back into the community quickly and safely. These figures show the legacy of their distraction and mismanagement continues.

“It can drag down your health to be in hospital when you should be cared for in the community.

“The NHS is under pressure like never before. Time is precious. The more staff tied up because care packages are not in place, the harder it is to deal with the day to day demands.

“A new and improved care system can’t get lost in the weeds of new centralised boards and bureaucracies, which is the risk of a National Care Service. The government should instead get on and establish new national care standards that patients can depend on, backed by a step change in pay, conditions and careers for the social care staff.”

One comment

  1. The NHS is a huge medical machine which at its heart is about treating people. And it does that very well universally free at the point of delivery.

    Managing a machine like the NHS in all its arts and parts is a huge challenge however. And things can and do go out of tune and it certainly, seems from the Royal College of Emergency Medicine that there is a real shortage of doctors, consultants and nurses. Indeed, the RCEM have actually put a number on it.

    Cheap shots about the government not having their eye on the ball are just that. What is more important is to identify why there are not enough A and E staff.

    Is it because we don’t have enough doctors because we don’t educate and train enough doctors. If so that is a damning reflection on our education system. One suspects it is. Access to tertiary education, is still not up there with the best despite what the government spin and high level skill shortages is the result.

    Also, the impact of Brexit and the hostile environment from which the SNP was going to protect us is also having an effect. Many many doctors in our NHS were recruited from abroad to fill the national shortage. And so now, the post Brexit dividend of restricting people coming into the country plays its part in reducing medical care. But of course it’s not just high level trained medical staff, but now also shortages in less glamorous but equally important jobs like HGV delivery drivers to seasonal berry pickers.

    So we don’t educate enough doctors and nurses, don’t have enough supply chain distribution drivers to deliver goods and services, and then we say we are trying to rebuild our country.

    Something doesn’t gel and maybe if someone sees Nicola they could ask her to see if she knows what it is but can’t bring herself to say.

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