EAST Lothian residents are being urged to attend accident and emergency (A&E) only if their condition is life-threatening because hospitals across the Lothians are under “immense pressure”.

The plea comes in the wake of politicians highlighting that more than a quarter of patients visiting hospitals are not being seen within four hours of arriving in A&E.

South Scotland MSPs Martin Whitfield (Labour) and Craig Hoy (Conservative) criticised the figures, which show that only 71.1 per cent of patients were seen within that timeframe in the week ending October 17.

However, Calum Campbell, chief executive for NHS Lothian, highlighted the issues facing the health service.

He said: “Our hospital system is under extreme duress.

“We have asked for mutual aid to help ease the sustained pressures our teams and patients are facing.

“We are seeing high volumes of people who are seriously ill and need admitted to hospital right away. On top of that, we have increased levels of general staff sickness and self-isolation, which has placed serious pressures on staffing levels.

“To try and relieve some of the pressure we are actively re-deploying staff from across the sector into the roles that need them most.

“I cannot praise and thank our staff enough for the ways in which they are continuing to respond to these new challenges; however, there is no denying that we are in a serious situation.”

Mr Whitfield, who is also a former East Lothian MP, warned that A&E services in NHS Lothian were now “at breaking point”.

He said: “Across Scotland, A&E services are in crisis, with the situation rapidly deteriorating with every passing week.

“Here in Lothian, services are at breaking point, with people left waiting in pain for hours on end.

“Hard-pressed frontline staff have been sounding the alarm for months, but the Health Secretary has spectacularly failed to take action.

“Lives are already on the line and if we don’t act now, things will only get worse as we head into winter.

“Humza Yousaf is a Health Secretary without a workable plan, so we have a health service in freefall.

“We need urgent action to save our flagging A&E services and to make sure NHS Lothian can cope.”

East Lothian does not have an A&E department – the nearest hospital A&E department to East Lothian is at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh.

Mr Whitfield’s comments were echoed by fellow MSP Mr Hoy.

The Haddington and Lammermuir ward member on East Lothian Council said: “Staff are beyond breaking point and more and more patients are paying the price.

“The latest A&E figures are very worrying

“Our A&E departments in Lothian have been in crisis for weeks, yet Humza Yousaf has failed to get on top of his brief.

“He must do so immediately, otherwise Lothian faces coming under intolerable strain when the winter peak hits.”

Paul McLennan (SNP), East Lothian MSP, felt that it was a complex situation.

He said: “The complexity of the situation, which includes the impact of the loss of a significant cohort of the care workforce due to Brexit, requires a pragmatic approach to seek to address it.

“I am heartened by the recent announcement of a further £10 million to health boards to bring in a range of measures to get A&E patients the right care as quickly as possible, including using allied health professionals and social workers, extending pharmacy and diagnostic services to speed up processes.

“This is on top of the £300 million package to support the Winter Plan for the NHS in Scotland.

“I would be keen to discuss with Mr Hoy, or any other members of the community of East Lothian, what measures they think are needed that will provide the results we all wish to see.”