THE NHS in Scotland is under pressure as a result of the winter season, leading to an increase in the proportion of people waiting longer than four hours in A&E.

According to Public Health Scotland, just 60.8% of people who attended A&E in the week to December 31 were seen within the target time.

This represents a drop from 65% the previous week.

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The number of people waiting more than 12 hours during that week also rose by almost a third, from 964 to 1271, while the number waiting longer than eight hours rose from 2584 to 3178.

Health Secretary Michael Matheson (below) said the winter pressures in the health service were “not unique to Scotland”.

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Matheson said: “Although we are seeing a slightly better performance than this time last year, particularly in terms of the number of long waits, we absolutely recognise that the system remains under pressure, and waiting times are longer than we want them to be for some patients.”

In the last week of 2022, 56% of people who attended A&E were seen within 4 hours.

A total of 4977 patients spent more than 8 hours waiting to be seen at A&E, whilst 2506 patients spent more than 12 hours waiting.

Matheson continued: “We are determined to provide boards with the support they need to manage continued seasonal pressure on services.

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“Our winter plan is supporting boards to maximise capacity to meet demand and the expansion of Hospital at Home services is already helping more people receive care at home or as close to home as possible, where clinically appropriate – which aims to relieve pressure on the front door of our A&Es.

“Hospital bed occupancy continues to be a major factor impacting on performance.

“To address this, the delayed discharge and hospital occupancy action plan is being implemented at pace, delivering actions we know work to ensure patients receive the right care in the right setting.”

To tackle mounting pressures the NHS is facing, Scottish Labour proposed reducing the number of boards from 14 to three in order to cut through "bureaucracy".

Speaking to BBC News, Scottish Labour MSP Paul Sweeney (below) said: "We've got 14 territorial health boards across Scotland - for a country of five and a half million, it's way too cluttered.”

The National:

"Labour has proposed to rationalise that down to three. Speaking to clinical professionals on the front line, they're saying systems don't talk to each another, there's different procurement systems, there's way too much duplication.

"It needs to be much more simple and a much more agile system for sharing data."

Sweeney added this would not mean cutting staff, but "re-utilising people in the right roles, in the right places" with more logical systems.

The proposal has been met with criticism by many, including senior members of the British Medical Association (BMA), the UK’s trade union for doctors and medical students.

Dr Hugh Pearson, the deputy chair of BMA Scotland, said plans to centralise the NHS were “not a good idea”.

“Local expertise is the future of healthcare not centralisation. Use the available time and resource to improve community services, primary care, workforce, infrastructure, public health – literally anything else,” Pearson said.