"ALARMING" new figures show NHS Fife's A&E waiting times to be among the worst in Scotland.

According to the most recent weekly statistics, at Victoria Hospital, just 56.2 per cent of patients were seen within the Government's four-hour target, while the worst ever numbers were recorded across the country.

Only two other health boards, NHS Lanarkshire and NHS Forth Valley, performed worse.

On average in Scotland, 63.4 per cent waited less than four hours, while others were left for more than eight.

Former Dunfermline MP and now North-East Fife MSP Willie Rennie said: "These figures are alarming. With the worst of the winter pressure yet to come, patients and staff will be increasingly worried about the months ahead.

"The Scottish Government needs to accept that its Recovery Plan isn’t working in Fife, and that the situation across the country is dire."

He called for health secretary Humza Yusaf to explain to Parliament how he will support the health service to avoid a "deepening crisis".

Mr Rennie added: "He should also back Scottish Liberal Democrat calls for an inquiry into avoidable deaths linked to A&E waiting times and a Burnout Prevention Strategy to give NHS workers more protection."

Mr Yusaf explained that emergency departments were working under "significant pressure", in line with those across the UK and the world, as the impact of the pandemic continues to affect services.

He continued: "I am clear that the current level of performance is not acceptable, that is why I am determined to improve performance and am working closely with boards on a number of measures to reduce pressure on hospitals.

"This includes the national roll-out of our Out-patient Antimicrobial Therapy service, which allows patients to be treated at home or in the community, which has already saved 45,000 bed days.

"This is funded through our £50 million Unscheduled Care Collaborative programme, which looks to drive down waiting times through a range of actions, including further development of Flow Navigation Centres in every board to ensure rapid access to a clinician and scheduled appointments, where possible."

He urged patients to consider alternatives to A&E.

"I’d like to reiterate my thanks to everyone working across our health and social care services," he said.

"As we move towards winter, people should continue to consider whether their condition is an emergency, such as a stroke, heart attack or major trauma, before going to A&E.

"Local GPs and pharmacies can be contacted during the day for non-critical care, NHS 24 is also available on 111 for non-emergencies."

Claire Dobson, director of acute services at NHS Fife, said: "There is significant pressure on our Emergency Department at present, as there has been throughout 2022, and we are regularly seeing in excess of 250 people in a single day, each of whom have to be assessed, treated and either discharged or admitted.

"In addition to seeing greater numbers of presentations, we are still seeing many more people who are seriously unwell and require admission to hospital, at a time when demand for inpatient care continues to be extremely high.

"This increased demand, coupled with significant numbers of patients who require ongoing care and support outwith the acute care setting, is hampering our ability to move patients out of our Emergency Department into other parts of the healthcare system.

"We are clear also that the length of time people spend within our Emergency Department should not be the sole measure of the quality of care patients are receiving, with our staff working incredibly hard to provide the best possible care to all who require their expertise.

"Those who are most unwell are prioritised to be seen very quickly and all who require admission, and are required to wait, are cared for and monitored throughout their time in the Emergency Department."