5,000 planned operations cancelled in January amid second wave of Covid-19

Around 5,000 fewer non-urgent operations took place in January compared to the previous month, reaching the lowest level since July as the second wave of Covid-19 took hold.

Planned surgeries dropped by a third from December to January.
Planned surgeries dropped by a third from December to January.

Some 11,830 planned operations took place in January, 5,000 fewer than the previous month and a 60 per cent drop on those in January 2020.

A wave of cancellations began in mid January as Covid-19 cases rose, with several health boards, including NHS Ayrshire and Arran and NHS Lanarkshire, issuing blanket postponement of all non-urgent operations and procedures, and others making cancellations on a case by case basis.

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The number of operations taking place was cut to 3,500 in April during the first lockdown but had risen to around 17,000 per month in September to December, before the second wave.

Alex Cole-Hamilton, Liberal Democrat health spokesperson, warned 170,000 operations were lost to the pandemic – comparing the number of operations which took place between March and December 2020 compared to the year before.

"These statistics show the grim reality we live in,” he said.

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"Despite the best efforts of our NHS heroes, Covid-19 has prevented many procedures from being carried out.

"People are in pain, friends and families feel powerless, while the NHS backlog continues to grow, and more people continue to suffer while stuck on a seemingly endless waiting list.”

It comes as the number of patients visiting A&E departments in Scotland also dropped in January, to 85,769, the lowest monthly figure since April 2020.

Almost 2,000 patients had to wait more than eight hours (2.4 per cent), while 600 waited more than 12 hours.

Dr John Thomson, Vice President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine in Scotland said January had been a “challenging” month for emergency care.

The figures are moving in the right direction, he said, but the country remains in a “precarious” position.

"As we return to pre-pandemic levels, we must remember that ‘normal’ pressures before were far from being normal,” he said.

"Departments have been crowded with patients experiencing long waits, with many being treated on trollies in corridors.

"Staff have been stretched thinly, and both 12-hour delays and ambulance handover delays have been regular occurrences – it is essential we do not allow these unsafe practices to continue to escalate and become routine as we exit the pandemic.”

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