Hospitals struggling to cope as hundreds of operations cancelled, Labour claims

Cancelling hundreds of operations a month because hospitals cannot cope has become a “grim norm”, an MSP has said.

Scottish Labour’s health spokeswoman Monica Lennon criticised the rate of cancelled planned operations as new figures were released.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said boards ensure cancellations are kept to a minimum.

The NHS Scotland Information Services Division figures indicate 571 (2.1%) planned operations were cancelled by hospitals in February due to a capacity or non-clinical reasons.

This figure has been falling since a spike of 3.4% in November 2018, relating to the unplanned, temporary closure of the Cowlairs decontamination unit in Glasgow after it failed a safety inspection.

Of the 27,741 planned operations in February, a total of 2,457 were cancelled (8.9%), down from 10.3% in February 2018.

Some 879 (3.2%) were cancelled by the hospital based on clinical reasons and 875 (3.2%) were cancelled by the patient.

Cancelled planned operations graph
Cancelled planned operations (ISD Scotland/PA)

Ms Lennon said: “Hundreds of cancelled operations because our hospitals can’t cope should be unacceptable but it has become the grim norm under this SNP government.

“Behind these cancelled operations are worried people, often waiting in pain.

“NHS staff do their best but they are being let down by this SNP government, too.

“Health Secretary Jeane Freeman must get on with giving our NHS the right resources to deliver the care people need.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton also called on Ms Freeman to provide more resources for the NHS.

He said: “Hundreds of patients are missing out on planned operations through no fault of their own. That’s unacceptable.

“NHS staff do an incredibly job but the simple fact is they haven’t got the resources they need to meet demand and keep operations running to schedule.”

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said health boards ensure cancellations are kept to a minimum (Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament/PA)

Ms Freeman said: “The decision to cancel any procedure is never taken lightly.

“Health boards ensure that cancellations are kept to a minimum and that any cancelled operation is rescheduled as soon as possible.

“We are clear that operations for those with the greatest clinical need, such as cancer patients, should not be cancelled.”

She added: “Today’s statistics show on average more than 900 procedures took place across Scotland’s hospital each day in February.

“Out of a total of 27,741 operations planned, 2.1% were cancelled for capacity reasons.

“Our Waiting Times Improvement Plan, backed with more than £850 million of funding, will help to increase capacity and efficiency, in turn helping to reduce the number of cancellations.”

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