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4 January 2019, 07:46
A patient has been waiting 849 days for hospital treatment, figures show, despite the Scottish Government bringing in legislation setting out a maximum waiting time of 84 days.
Under the Treatment Time Guarantee - introduced when First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was health secretary - patients requiring either inpatient or day treatment in hospital should receive it within 12 weeks.
But figures released under freedom of information laws show one person in the NHS Tayside area had to wait more than 10 times this long without having had the planned procedure.
An NHS Tayside spokeswoman stressed it is "rare" for patients to have to wait so long, and there could be a number of reasons for such a delay.
But Liberal Democrat health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton, whose party uncovered the figures, said they revealed "shocking" breaches of the Treatment Time Guarantee.
A total of 12,275 patients across Scotland have had to wait more than six months for treatment since 2016-17.
The Lib Dems said there are 434 people currently needing treatment who have been on the waiting list for more than a year.
Mr Cole-Hamilton said: "We knew the First Minister's 84-day Treatment Time Guarantee was being routinely breached. It is shocking to now uncover the sheer scale of these breaches.
"Hundreds of patients across Scotland have waited hundreds of days longer than promised for treatment.
"The number of people waiting over a year for procedures, when the law says it should take no longer than 12 weeks, is going up and up. This is disrupting people's lives and work, leaving them in discomfort and pain.
"Patients are still sent letters telling them of their rights under the law Nicola Sturgeon put pen to paper on. But these letters, like the law itself, are not worth a jot.
"To add insult to injury, we were told it would only be on rare occasions that things would go wrong."
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has put forward a plan for Scotland's NHS to meet waiting times targets by 2021 - but the Liberal Democrats said this would be a full decade after the Patient Rights (Scotland) Act, which established the 12-week guarantee, was passed.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "The Health Secretary has been clear that we want to stop anyone from waiting too long for treatment, and that it is not acceptable for this to happen. That is why the Scottish Government recently launched its new £850 million waiting times improvement plan.
"The plan sets out action to increase capacity, increase clinical effectiveness and efficiency and design and implement new models of care. We will continue to work with boards to ensure this additional funding delivers the substantial and sustainable improvements needed."
Regarding the 849-day wait for treatment, an NHS Tayside spokeswoman said: "Such long waits are rare and can relate to many factors. These include elective treatment being postponed due to a high demand for emergency procedures; medical staff assessing individual patients as being clinically unfit for surgery; and patients advising us that they are unavailable for surgery due to personal reasons.
"In the cases where patients are deemed unfit, it may be that further clinical investigations need to be completed before the patient can have their surgery and, even during this time when patients are unavailable, they are still counted in our waiting times figures.
"Our clinicians work really hard to make sure people have their planned surgery as quickly as it can be arranged as they know that any delay can be an anxious time for patients and their families."