NHS Grampian has been the worst performing health board in Scotland against a key waiting-time target for every month of the last year.
The north-east’s board achieved the “maximum” 18-week referral-to-treatment standard in just 65.5% of cases in March, meaning one out of every three patients in the region waited longer.
The performance, which has been at a similar level since September last year, fell well short of the 90% target and the 81.2% Scottish average for March.
And NHS Grampian has now been at the bottom of the performance table against the target for an entire year.
Opposition politicians seized on the data last night, branding the figures “totally unacceptable” and calling for the health board’s under-funding to be addressed “as a matter of urgency”.
Since December 2011, the Scottish Government’s standard is for 90% of patients to wait no longer than 18 weeks from referral to treatment, but NHS Grampian has not reached the target, or been above the Scottish average, in any month since September 2014.
Orkney and the Western Isles were among only three boards to meet the standard in March, achieving rates of 98.9% and 91.7% respectively, while Highland and Shetland were just above the national average, at 81.7% and 81.8%.
Tom Mason, Scottish Conservative MSP for the north-east region, said NHS Grampian’s figures were “totally unacceptable and requires urgent attention from the SNP government”.
He added: “It is clear that staffing issues are at the root of this problem. Quite frankly, Shona Robison and the SNP have not done enough to help address that.”
North-east Liberal Democrat MSP Mike Rumbles said there was a “direct link” between the data and the health board’s low funding.
“The first minister must now reimburse this funding shortfall in our local health services as a matter of urgency,” he said.
Labour’s Anas Sarwar said: “NHS staff work round the clock to provide the care Scots need but it is becoming increasingly clear that they are facing an uphill struggle under this SNP government.”
An NHS Grampian spokeswoman said: “We are committed to meeting the waiting times targets laid down by the Scottish Government and acknowledge our current performance falls short of that.
“This is due to longstanding issues in recruiting to some specialist medical and nursing vacancies.”
While Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “It is testament to the hard work and dedication of staff that the average wait for patients receiving treatment within the treatment time guarantee was eight weeks, and that 1.6 million patients have received their treatment within the guarantee since it was introduced.”