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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 April 2006, 10:36 GMT 11:36 UK
SNP criticises NHS waiting times
The SNP said the figures were "most distressing"
The SNP has criticised NHS figures which show patients have had to wait up to 19 hours for accident and emergency treatment in Scottish hospitals.

Some of the worst average waiting times were at Wishaw General and Hairmyres Hospital in the first minister's and health minister's constituencies.

The SNP's deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon said the figures were "distressing".

Ministers said the NHS was on course to meet a maximum waiting time guarantee of four hours by the end of next year.

The new figures, obtained by the nationalists under Freedom of Information legislation, showed that typical waits for treatment had risen by about 50% in six years.

The longest waiting time in A&E occurred at Wishaw General Hospital, at 19 hours and 44 minutes.

'Record of failure'

At Wishaw, the average waiting time for A&E treatment was also one of the longest in Scotland, at about two and a half hours.

The hospital is based in First Minister Jack McConnell's constituency.

The second longest maximum accident and emergency waiting time was in Monklands Hospital, at just over 15 hours.

Hairmyres Hospital, in Health Minister Andy Kerr's East Kilbride constituency, also had one of the longest average waiting times, at about two and a half hours.

Ms Sturgeon said the figures were particularly embarrassing for both the first minister and health minister.

"This is a record of failure for which both men are directly responsible," she said.

'Clinically unsafe'

A Scottish Executive spokesman said this was the first time performance had been measured against the four-hour target, which will come into effect at the end of 2007.

"While performance is generally encouraging, there are clear areas needing concerted action," he said.

"A small number of patients may, for good clinical reasons, need to remain in A&E for more than four hours until their condition stabilises - to move them from A&E would be clinically unsafe."

The executive also said the survey showed that nearly nine out of 10 patients who attended A&E departments were seen, treated and either discharged or admitted to a ward within four hours.

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