THE number of patients waiting more than 12 months for an outpatient appointment has rocketed five-fold in a year, with orthopaedics and urology among the departments worst hit by backlogs.
Pressures facing the NHS in Scotland were highlighted as figures showed that 1,186 people seen in 2016 had waited more than 12 months for hospital treatment, compared to 228 in 2015 - an increase of 420 per cent year-on-year.
It comes amid increased consultant vacancies and rising patient demand as the population ages.
The figures, from ISD Scotland, also show that the number of people waiting more than a year for outpatient appointments has been steadily increasing in recent years. In 2011, only nine patients had waited longer than 52 weeks.
The delays occurred across various areas of medicine, but the majority occurred in urology, where 303 patients had waited more than 12 months for their appointment, followed by 277 patients in trauma and orthopaedic surgery and 170 patients in gastroenterology patients.
There were also 16 patients in 2016 who were seen at an outpatient clinic after a two year wait, and one patient who was finally seen at an ear, nose and throat (ENT) clinic after spending four and a half years on the waiting list. However, it is unclear from the data whether the patient had failed to attend or cancelled previous scheduled appointments.
There were also departments - such as cardiology, haematology and plastic surgery - where no patients, or very few, waited longer than a year.
The figures have been released today following a freedom of information request by the Scottish Conservatives.
Shadow health secretary Miles Briggs said: “This is just another measure which shows a real collapse in the standard of service being offered to patients.
“That’s not the fault of hardworking staff – this is all on an SNP government whose shoddy forward planning has led to these unacceptable delays. To see these statistics shoot up by more than 400 per cent in the space of just a year is remarkable.
“Nobody should have to wait longer than a year for care.”
Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “We remain committed to ensuring patients get quick access to the services they require. We announced an extra £10 million to deliver 40,000 more outpatient appointments immediately between November 2016 and March 2017 and have also provided an additional £50m to improve waiting times at all stages of a patient’s journey through the NHS.
"In December 2016, we published a new strategy for responding to the rising demand in outpatient appointments, aiming to free up 400,000 appointments. We have recently completed the consultation exercise and will be pushing ahead with this over the next year.
"To meet increasing demand we are investing £200 million in a network of five new elective treatment centres across Scotland as well as expanding the Golden Jubilee National Hospital. These will enable people to be treated more quickly for planned surgery while easing pressure on unplanned and emergency treatment.”