Scotland politics

Labour and the SNP trade claims over hospital waiting times

hospital ward Image copyright PA
Image caption Labour said there were "hidden waiting lists" in Scotland's hospitals

The SNP and Labour have clashed over waiting times at Scotland's hospitals.

The SNP said Scotland's NHS had outperformed the rest of the UK on accident and emergency waiting times, which it insisted had "improved dramatically" in 2015.

However, Labour said there were "hidden waiting lists" among patients taken to separate "immediate assessment units".

The two parties have frequently traded blows over NHS performance in the build-up to May's Holyrood election.

Figures show that 94.5% of patients visiting Scotland's core A&Es in December 2015 were seen within the target time of four hours.

'Postcode lottery'

However, Scottish Labour said there were up to 30 different "immediate assessment units" across the country, wards which patients can be sent to where there are different waiting times targets or even no targets at all.

The party's public services spokesman Dr Richard Simpson said these amounted to "hidden waiting lists", and pointed to newspaper reports from November 2015 that a patient had died while waiting for treatment in one such ward.

He said: "These are wards filled with patients who a doctor has judged sick enough to go to hospital, but these patients face a postcode lottery in terms of the care they will receive.

"There isn't a consistent name or a consistent waiting time target in any of these wards.

"It cannot be right that the length of time a patient waits for treatment is measured if they go through one door in a hospital but not another."

'Real progress'

SNP MSP Dennis Robertson said there had been a 178% increase in A&E consultants on his party's watch, and English A&E performance had fallen "well behind Scotland".

He said: "Scotland's A&Es have made real progress in the last year, and that is a testament to the hard work of the record number of NHS staff up and down Scotland.

"And while there is still work to do, Scotland's A&Es are now consistently the best-performing in the UK.

"The SNP sees Scotland's NHS as one of our nation's most important assets and we will continue to do all we can to support our hardworking healthcare workers to provide the best possible care for all patients.

"Our government in Scotland will continue to increase NHS frontline investment in at least real terms for every year of the next parliament if the SNP are re-elected."

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