Nairn cataract patient's 12-month waiting time criticised at FMQs
A woman faces a minimum wait of 12 months for a consultation about surgery for a cataract, MSPs have heard.
Elaine Hanby's case was raised at First Minister's Questions in Holyrood by Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale.
Ms Dugdale said the 48-year-old's wait for surgery was an example of failing Scottish government targets on waiting times for treatment.
Nicola Sturgeon said the government was continuing to work with the NHS to provide better treatment for patients.
She said she would not comment on individual cases but said these could be raised with Health Secretary Shona Robinson, before adding that the SNP had made commitments on greater spending on the NHS than Labour had.
NHS Highland, the health board involved, said difficulties in recruiting to vacancy in ophthalmology had contributed to waiting times for cataract assessment. It has apologised.
Mother-of-two Mrs Hanby, who is from Nairn, told BBC Scotland News online that she asked for her situation to be raised in public to highlight the waits her and other cataract patients face for an assessment and then treatment.
Mrs Hanby was diagnosed as having a cataract two years ago.
At FMQs Ms Dugdale said: "Her condition now impacts on her quality of life. Her optician referred her to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness for surgery.
"The Scottish government target is for patients to wait no longer than 12 weeks for their first consultation, but Mrs Hanby was told not to expect a wait of 12 weeks but a minimum of 12 months."
Ms Sturgeon said: "The issue of the NHS is perhaps the most serious which we discuss in this chamber.
"Of course we want to see waiting times go even lower, but waiting times today whether inpatient waiting times, or outpatient waiting times, or waiting times for accident and emergency, are lower than they were when this government first took office."
Ms Dugdale said the first minister's response would be of "little comfort" to Ms Hanby.
Mrs Hanby, who is chairwoman of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Widows Association, said her condition prevented her from driving at night-time and limited her use of computers.
She was referred to NHS Highland's ophthalmology department as a routine referral and was placed on the waiting list in August last year.
Her optician told her to ask for a cancellation or to be assessed and treated at the Golden Jubilee Hospital in Clydebank. NHS Highland said the option of going to the hospital in Clydebank ceased in September last year.
Mrs Hanby said she understood and sympathised with NHS Highland's problem recruiting staff.
She said: "I was given the option to take the NHS funding and go abroad, but I think it is ridiculous that I cannot be assessed and treated in Scotland, or somewhere else in the UK.
"I am still waiting 12 months and a further wait for treatment after that.
"It is frustrating, but not just for me but for others, some with worse conditions than my own, waiting for treatment to cataracts."
In a statement, NHS Highland said: "We have experienced difficulty in recruiting to vacant posts within the ophthalmology department and this has contributed to the current waiting time for a cataract assessment.
"At present, there is a nine-month waiting time from referral to cataract assessment. However, we remain confident that patients will be seen within the 12-week Treatment Time Guarantee for cataract surgery after their assessment."
The health board added: "We are sorry Mrs Hanby is unhappy and would welcome the opportunity to discuss this with her directly.
"We would encourage her to contact our feedback team and we will look into the case in more detail."