New figures show that 470 people spent more than 12 hours waiting to be seen in Scotland’s Accident and Emergency departments in just one week.
Across the country, A&E staff managed to treat 77.9% of patients within the four-hour target in the first week of January, well below the Scottish Government’s 95% target.
However, north and north-east health boards were among the best performing in the country during the week, after a difficult period during a major winter flu outbreak.
NHS Grampian and NHS Highland both admitted, transferred or discharged 89% of patients within four hours, up from 87% at both boards in the previous week.
NHS Western Isles processed 95% within four hours, down from 100% in the previous week, while NHS Shetland and NHS Orkney both dealt with 98% in the target period.
Hospital A&E departments cared for 25,280 patients in the first week of the year, according to official figures, of which 1,449 – or 5.7% of all patients – spent more than eight hours waiting, compared to 1,156 who had to wait this long in the last week of December.
Meanwhile the number of patients in A&E for more than 12 hours rose from 272 the previous week to 470, including three in NHS Grampian’s hospitals, but zero in the Highlands and islands.
Health Secretary Shona Robison said hospitals were continuing to “feel the effect of the steep rise in flu cases”, after figures showed the flu rate in Scotland for the first week of 2018 was four times higher than the same week last year.
Infection control measures meant some patients had had to wait “a little longer” in A&E to be admitted, she added.
But Conservative health spokesman Miles Briggs said the Scottish Government had “ignored” warnings about the challenges winter would bring.
Labour health spokesman Anas Sarwar said: “It might be a new year, but the SNP is still failing Scotland’s NHS.”
Banffshire and Buchan Coast SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson said: “Despite increased pressures from the number of flu cases and additional winter pressures, NHS Grampian has managed to increase the number of patients seen within four hours of visiting A&E.
“The work of all health and social care staff who are delivering such fantastic patient care in this tough period is commendable.”