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  • 08 May 2019
  • 3 min read

More than 2,500 NHS Scotland operations cancelled in March

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The Health Secretary is facing calls to ease pressure on hospitals and staff after cancellations in March rose to 2,508, official figures show.

The number of cancelled operations in Scotland’s hospitals is on the rise, sparking calls for the Health Secretary to ease pressure on the NHS.

Latest figures show that the number of cancellations in March was 2,508, up from 2,457 scrapped procedures in February.

Compared to March 2018, when the Beast from the East storm was still affecting services, the percentage of cancellations dropped from 12.6% of planned operations to 8.5%.

Official NHS statistics for March 2019 reveal that, of the total 29,632 planned operations, 934 (3.2%) were cancelled by the patient; 965 (3.3%) were cancelled by the hospital for clinical reasons; 490 (1.7%) were cancelled by the hospital due to capacity or non-clinical reasons and 119 (0.4%) did not go ahead for unspecified reasons.

"NHS staff do an incredible job but the simple fact is they haven’t got the resources they need to meet demand and keep operations running to schedule" - Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP

Commenting on the findings, Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP said: “Hundreds of patients are missing out on planned operations through no fault of their own. The pain and suffering this causes is utterly unacceptable.

“For many patients, the hassle of cancelled and rescheduled surgeries can cause a lot of anguish. People naturally worry about surgery and cancellations cause huge disruption to their lives.

“NHS staff do an incredible job but the simple fact is they haven’t got the resources they need to meet demand and keep operations running to schedule. The SNP have repeatedly promised to staff our NHS effectively, yet there is no part of the service which is now not coming under pressure.

“The Scottish Government has relied on the goodwill of staff for far too long. Scottish Liberal Democrats demand better, starting with the publication of the long-overdue integrated health and social care workforce plan.”

Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP, right, has criticised cancellation figures.

NHS Glasgow and NHS Lothian were the two worst performers, followed by NHS Grampian.

North East Liberal Democrat MSP, Mike Rumbles added: “It is no comfort to see NHS Grampian’s performance move from being the worst to third worst. I am sure that if our health board received its fair share, more could be done to help stop non-clinical cancellations.

“People in the North East are being repeatedly failed by the Scottish Government for allowing NHS Grampian to be underfunded. It is time for this to end.”

Last month Labour shadow Health Secretary Monica Lennon warned that cancelling hundreds of operations a month because hospitals cannot cope has become a “grim norm”.

Responding to the latest figures, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: “Today’s statistics show us that in March there were more than 870 operations carried out on average each day, with fewer than 2% of all operations cancelled for capacity or non-clinical reasons.

“The decision for a board to postpone an elective procedure is never taken lightly. We continue to work closely with health boards to ensure cancellations are kept to a minimum and that any postponed procedures will be rescheduled at the earliest opportunity.

“Our Waiting Times Improvement Plan, backed with more than £850 million of funding, will help increase capacity and efficiency and introduce new models of care which will help us to further reduce the number of cancellations.

“We recently announced the next round of funding of £70 million to target long waits in this financial year.”

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