Fall in planned operations in Scottish hospitals

Preparing for surgery Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Planned operations include procedures like hip or knee replacements

Scottish hospitals carried out 14,000 fewer operations in the first half of this year than over the same period of 2016, an investigation has found.

Analysis by The Times newspaper revealed that the number of planned operations was cut by almost 7%.

Planned operations include procedures such as hip and knee replacements.

The Scottish government said long waits were "unacceptable" and it was working with health boards to bring improvements.

In NHS Grampian, there were 3,700 fewer operations than the year before - a drop of 16.6% - and patients are facing waiting times which can stretch to a year.

The health board has blamed problems recruiting staff.

Only NHS Forth Valley and NHS Shetland have boosted the number of operations.

Every month the Scottish NHS publishes figures showing how many operations have been cancelled and the number of procedures which took place.

The Times used the data to compare the number of operations carried out between January and the end of July 2017 with the same seven months last year.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption NHS Grampian blamed a recruitment crisis for the drop in the number of planned operations

In NHS Tayside, NHS Ayrshire and Arran and NHS Fife about 9% fewer patients have received an operation.

In NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde 4,070 fewer operations have taken place, a drop of 8.3%. In NHS Lothian the figure was down by 1,607, or 4.4%.

Fewer beds being available in hospitals for patients having scheduled operations has been cited as one of the reasons why the number of procedures was down.

Official figures show the total number of hospital beds available in Scotland in March dropped by 382 from 22,240 to 21,858.

Qualified candidates

A spokeswoman for NHS Grampian said: "The reduction in the number of procedures taking place is a direct result of the challenges we have faced in staffing.

"This does not just cover theatres themselves but also vital pre- and post-operative care.

"We continue to actively recruit to a range of posts but - in common with many Scottish boards - are facing a shortage of suitably qualified candidates in some areas."

She added that while they were unable to meet the Scottish government's legal waiting time guarantee they had created a new system for prioritising patients.

A Scottish government spokeswoman said: "Long waits are unacceptable and we are committed to ensuring all patients have swift, safe access to the NHS in Scotland.

"Boards work hard to keep cancellations to a minimum, and we will continue working with them so we see sustained improvement.

"On average there are nearly 900 operations successfully carried out each day across Scotland, and more than 314,000 carried out in the last year."

The spokeswoman added that the government was committing an additional £32m to NHS health boards in 2017-18, plus an additional £50m to improve waiting times.

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