Ayrshire’s health board failed to meet emergency treatment times for 16 months running.

Statistics from the NHS’ Information Services Division (ISD) show that in December NHS Ayrshire and Arran failed to meet their Accident and Emergency targets for the 17th consecutive month.

The waiting time target set by the Scottish Government is that 95 per cent of patients attending A&E should be seen and subsequently discharged, transferred or admitted within four hours.

NHS Ayrshire and Arran have not met this target since July 2018.

The most recent figures show that in the four weeks in December one in five patients waited longer than four hours, with only 79.6 per cent of patients being seen on time.

Jamie Greene MSP, Conservative member for the West Scotland region, said: “These figures reveal the full extent that waiting times have declined under this Scottish Government with a massive 17.8 per cent of A&E patients not being seen within four hours [in November].

“Despite the well-documented issues surrounding NHS Ayrshire and Arran we have seen little action taken from Scottish ministers to alleviate some of these problems.

“It is crucial that we the Scottish Government begins taking this matter more seriously and delivering tangible improvements for local residents.

“This must take priority over matters around independence and second referendums going forward.”

South Scotland Labour MSP Colin Smyth said: “Yet again we see the impact the SNP government’s mismanagement of our NHS is having on patient care in Ayrshire and Arran.

“A&E provides a vital role in our healthcare system and it is unacceptable that so many patients are being forced to wait hours to be seen.

“The level of pressure on services and staff in the area is simply not sustainable, and it is time for the SNP government to wake up to the crisis facing so many parts of our NHS and ensure we properly resource staff to deliver the service patients need.”

Joanne Edwards, director of acute services for the board, said: “NHS Ayrshire and Arran is committed to providing safe and effective health care and treatment for our population in as timely a way as possible.

“As with all other health boards in Scotland, we have experienced a high demand for our unscheduled care services. We apologise to any patient who has to wait longer than the target four-hour period for either discharge or transfer to an appropriate setting from our Emergency Departments.

Ms Edwards said the board are working to open up additional beds, bring in extra staff and tackle discharge delays.

ISD Scotland data showed the total number of bed days lost as a result of delayed discharge in November 2019 was 4,770.

Delayed discharge is when a patient is medically cleared to go home but cannot, often because a social care package is not in place.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Scotland’s core A&E departments are the best performing in the UK and have been for more than four and a half years. Despite continued high attendance levels, in the last 12 months we saw more patients within four hours than in any other year since 2012.

“We are very clear that providing effective out-of-hours care to ensure non-emergency patients don’t need to go to A&E is integral to tackling waiting times – that’s why we continue to support the delivery and re-design of GP-led out-of-hours services in line with Sir Lewis Ritchie’s report.

“We’re also tackling delayed discharge to make sure that patients don’t spend any longer in hospital than needed – and this relies on the joint work of health boards and local councils delivered through the health and social care partnership.

“All of this work is designed to ensure that the entire system – from A&E units to social care in the community and out-of-hours GP services – functions in a unified and co-ordinated way in the best interests of patients.”

The Government plans to invest integration of health and social care services, with spending exceeding £700 million, a 29 per cent increase on the last year.

A total of almost £20 million is planned to go to health boards to support improvement in unscheduled care.