The number of patients waiting longer than four hours at a Scottish emergency department reached a record high in 2023, analysis by the Scottish Liberal Democrats suggests.
The party estimates that 443,429 people waited more than four hours, with just 66.1% of A&E patients seen within the 95% target.
The figures, calculated by taking weekly A&E performance figures since 2016, also saw a record 141,199 waiting longer than eight hours and 55,995 waiting 12 hours or more in 2023.
In 2016, the earliest year recorded, 89,968 were seen in four hours – just 1.7% under the 95% target.
Meanwhile, just 7,047 people waited longer than eight hours in 2016 while 998 waited more than 12.
The number of lengthy waits jumped significantly in the years since the Covid-19 pandemic, with 248,736 waits of four or more hours in 2021, while 45,029 waited eight or more hours and 12,638 waited more than 12.
Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “Humza Yousaf’s NHS recovery plan has been worse than useless. It was meant to improve conditions for staff and patients in A&E, and across the NHS, but these figures show that we are still moving backwards.
“It beggars belief that not only are hundreds of thousands of patients enduring long waits in A&E, more and more are waiting longer every single year. The SNP have completely failed to tackle this crisis.
“Staff have been ringing the alarm for years over the state of our NHS, but this SNP Government has utterly failed to give them the beds and safe staffing levels they need to do their job.
“This pressure cooker of constantly deteriorating conditions will lead to mass staff burnout and the Government must act with urgency to prevent this.
“Scotland deserves a government that will take this crisis seriously.”
He said his party would overhaul the recovery plan and bring forward an urgent inquiry into the “hundreds of avoidable deaths linked to the emergency care crisis”.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We recognise the system remains under sustained pressure, and waiting times are longer than we want them to be for some patients.
“We remain committed to delivering new, better and more sustainable ways of delivering services and improving access for patients.
“We continue to work closely with health boards and partners, including the centre for sustainable delivery, to embed actions we know work.
“This includes early discharge planning, reducing occupancy and length of stay, increasing staffing levels at peak times, as well as strengthening arrangements to prevent hospital admissions such as same day emergency care services and Hospital at Home.”