Some health boards in Scotland have to endure double the rate of accident and emergency admissions compared to others, an official report has revealed.
A study into patients attending casualty units across Scotland showed that, in NHS Ayrshire and Arran, 320 in every 1000 people went to A&E over the last year.
That compares to a rate of just 157 in Tayside and 160 in every 1000 in Grampian, with the rates varying wildly depending on which part of Scotland a person lives.
ISD Scotland’s ‘Understanding Emergency Care in NHS Scotland’ document studied admissions in the year up to June 2015.
It found there were around 1.3 million attendances last year, which equates to around a quarter of the country’s population.
But geographical breakdowns show areas like Ayrshire and Arran, Lanarkshire and Glasgow take in far more A&E patients than Tayside, Grampian and the Highlands.
Patients from the most deprived areas are also twice as likely to be admitted than those from the wealthiest, the report found.
Accident and emergency departments across Scotland have struggled for years to hit SNP targets of seeing patients within four hours of arriving.
Ministers reduced the target from 98 per cent to 95 per cent, but still many health boards regularly fall well short of that standard.
The Scottish Government previously pledged to reduce the number of people showing up at A&E, but the figures have only moved in the other direction.
Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said:
“The fact people living in deprived areas and the elderly are more likely to require A&E treatment offers some justification for varying rates.
“But it doesn’t come close to explaining why, in some areas of Scotland, you are twice as likely to go to casualty than in others.
“The Scottish Government needs to look at this startling gulf as a matter of urgency and work out exactly why this is.
“It would also be useful for health boards with high rates of admissions to look at those doing better to see what can be learned.
“Casualty departments across Scotland are under huge strain, and it’s critical patients are aware of other alternatives for more minor complaints.
“The Scottish Government said it was going to do this, but the figures keep showing that not to be the case.”