NICOLA Sturgeon highlighted A&E waiting times in Scotland are better than those across the rest of the UK as she pledged to take urgent action on what are still “unacceptable” statistics.

The First Minister was questioned on Thursday by opposition leaders Douglas Ross and Anas Sarwar on what she planned to do after figures showed waiting times at A&E departments hit a new record low.

Just 63.5% of patients were seen and subsequently admitted or discharged within the target four hours in the week up to September 11, which Sturgeon admitted was “not good enough and must improve”.

But she did stress A&E departments right across the UK were suffering and statistics show Scotland is actually performing better than other nations.

During First Minister’s Questions, Sturgeon said: “While performance needs to improve here in Scotland, our A&E departments are performing better than those in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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“For context, if you look at the last complete month where we have figures, performance against the four-hour target in Scotland was 66.5% - not good enough and needs to improve - but that compares to 57% in England, 55.2% in Wales, and 45.7% in Northern Ireland, so these pressures exist everywhere and this government is focussed on making sure we support those in our NHS to tackle them.”

Sturgeon stressed how there had been a 263% increase in A&E consultants since her government took office and said she was committed to more investment to support further recruitment.

Tory leader Ross accused her of “hollow words” and outlined an example of a patient in Ayrshire who had had to wait 84 days for treatment.

He said: “Context may be important for the First Minister and her members behind her, but for people waiting hours and days for A&E treatment, they are hollow words.

“The deputy chair of BMA Scotland said this week our A&E departments are no longer safe and he added what’s really concerning is our government are just not acting and turning a blind eye to this.

“An FOI response has revealed that one patient at a hospital in Ayrshire had to wait 84 hours for treatment. That’s three and a half days. First Minister, is that really what anyone in Scotland should go through in 2022?”

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The FM said that particular situation was “unacceptable” and she was willing to look into the specific case, but continued to stress Scotland was performing better than its UK counterparts, with 12-hour waiting times 50 times worse in England than they are north of the Border.

She said: “Douglas Ross and others come to this chamber and pretend or suggest these issues are unique. They are not unique to Scotland, they are pressures all health services are facing.

“In terms of recruitment, investment, in terms of changing the pathways of care, we are taking action across all of these strands.”

Ross replied: “The First Minister just said there that 84 hours is not good enough, but it’s better than other parts of the UK. How does the person feel when they hear that?”

Sturgeon then accused the Scottish Tory leader of twisting her words.

She said: “We are supporting the action it will take to see improvements. It doesn’t do anyone any service at all to deliberately twist and, indeed, misrepresent what I said.

“I did not say, and it’s important to be clear here, that 84 hours was not good enough but better than anywhere else in the UK. I said our four-hour performance was not good enough, but better than other parts of the UK, and I said that about our longer waits too.

“What I said about 84 hours is that is clearly unacceptable, but cases like that are also exceptional and when they do occur, it’s important they are looked into.”