Opposition leaders are calling for health secretary Humza Yousaf to take urgent action on spiralling waiting time lists.
Figures released by Public Health Scotland reveal 105,630 people across Scotland were waiting to get a key diagnostic test done at the end of March.
Key diagnostic tests include upper and lower endoscopies, colonoscopies, cystoscopies, CT scans, MRI scans, barium studies and non-obstetric ultrasounds.
The leaders of the Scottish Conservatives, Scottish Labour and Scottish Lib Dems are now warning of a looming health crisis, and are calling for the newly-appointed health secretary to take urgent action to stop this from happening.
Thousands wait for key diagnostic test in NHS Scotland
The number of people in Scotland waiting for a key diagnostic test at the end of March had increased by 4.6% from the numbers at the end of 2020, and was almost 25% higher than the numbers at the very beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
Of those waiting for an appointment in March, 38.4% had been waiting for more than six weeks – this is up from 24.9% at the end of March 2020.
A total of 33,444 people were waiting for an endoscopy test as of March 31, which is 43.4% higher than the numbers when lockdown was first announced in March last year.
NHS Tayside is the health board with the most patients waiting over a year for an endoscopy, with 31.1% of patients facing more than a 52-week wait.
Meanwhile, NHS Grampian has the most patients waiting over 13 weeks for a radiology appointment, at 31.2% of patients.
Calls for urgent action to tackle rising waiting lists
Opposition politicians are now calling for urgent action to be taken to remobilise the NHS.
Conservative Annie Wells, shadow health secretary, called the figures “extremely concerning”.
She said: “The SNP’s new health secretary must tackle these waiting times as a matter of urgency before they completely spiral out of control.
“The pandemic has undoubtedly brought unique challenges for our NHS, but SNP ministers cannot be allowed to deflect blame for these ever increasing waits for patients to be seen.
“Even prior to this crisis, the SNP’s record on hitting health targets simply wasn’t good enough.”
Jackie Baillie, deputy leader and health spokeswoman for Scottish Labour, says lives will be lost if steps are not taken immediately.
She said: “These statistics plainly show that we are in the midst of a healthcare crisis.
“Without urgent action to remobilise the NHS lives will be lost – Humza Yousaf has no time to lose.
“Scottish Labour has published a detailed NHS recovery plan outlining the action needed to get NHS and cancer services back on track.
“We have no time to dither and delay.
“The SNP needs to take urgent action to save lives and they need to take it now.”
And Alex Cole-Hamilton, health spokesman for the Lib Dems, said: “Patients and hardworking staff can’t afford for ministers to be distracted from the job of NHS recovery.
“Catching up on lost treatments and delayed operations is going to need every ounce of their energy and attention.
“We all need to come together to recover from the worst health crisis in 100 years.
“It will be important to listen to the views of NHS staff as to which service innovations they have pioneered during the pandemic will be essential to rebuild the health service.”
Health secretary to reveal NHS recovery plan within first 100 days of parliament
Humza Yousaf, who was recently given the position of health secretary, says he will produce a plan on how to tackle increasing waiting times within the first 100 days of the new parliament.
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “The health secretary has committed to produce a detailed NHS recovery plan within the first 100 days of the new administration.
“The recovery plan will set out in detail how we intend to meet our ambition of increasing inpatient, day case, and outpatient activity by 10% above pre-Covid levels.
“We are working with health boards to get those who have had treatments or procedures postponed due to Covid-19 the care they need as quickly as possible.
“We are establishing early cancer diagnostic centres in every health board area, with the first three clinics opening in Dumfries and Galloway, Ayrshire and Arran, and Fife, and we are taking forward our £320 million national treatment centre programme to support recovery across 14 different specialities.
“The health secretary has committed to work cross-party in the national interest, in order to remobilise our NHS.”