The number of new outpatients waiting more than 12 weeks for treatment has increased fivefold since the Scottish Government gave a “guarantee” that nobody would have to wait that long.
Some 32,961 waited longer than 12 weeks in March 2016, about five times more than the 5,945 waiting in September 2012 immediately before the 12-week treatment time “guarantee” was introduced and the 7,010 seen in March 2013.
Performance against the 12-week target has been falling steadily year-on-year since March 2014 – when 97% were seen on time – to March 2016, when 88% were seen on time.
The number of inpatient or day case admissions waiting longer than 12 weeks has also increased by a factor of four, from 1,460 in March 2013 to 5,715 in March 2016.
Performance against the target has dropped from around 97% in March 2013 to 92% in March 2016.
The Patient Rights (Scotland) Act 2011 established a legal 12-week treatment time guarantee for eligible patients who are due to receive planned inpatient or day case treatment from 1 October 2012.
The Act states that eligible patients must start to receive that treatment within 84 days of the treatment being agreed.
Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “Health boards across Scotland continue to deliver some of the lowest waiting times on record, with 1.1 million patients treated within our 12-week treatment time guarantee since it was introduced in October 2012.
“However, more clearly needs to be done to maintain and improve performance to meet the rightly-demanding targets we have set.
“Patients should expect nothing less. That’s why we have provided recent investment to ease pressure and set out long-terms plans to ensure our NHS is fit for the future.
“This includes our commitment to investing £200 million to create five new elective and diagnostic centres across the country, as well as expand services at the Golden Jubilee Hospital.
“In addition, a £2.7 million investment to reduce outpatient waits is reflected in the improvement in outpatient performance.”
Performance at accident and emergency (A&E) departments remains strong, with 93.7% of patients seen and subsequently admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours at “core” A&E departments in the week ending May 22.
This is an increase of 1.7 percentage points on the same week in 2015.
Ms Robison said: “Nationally, our core accident-and-emergency performance has remained better than elsewhere in the UK for the last 13 months of published data, from March 2015 to March 2016.”
All but one patient eligible for in-vitro fertilization (IVF) pregnancy assistance were seen with a 12-month deadline.
There were 395 eligible patients screened between January and March 2016, completing a run of five quarters where nearly every patient was seen within the deadline and an improvement on summer 2014 when only about 70% of patients were seen on time.