Cancelled operations and bed blocking at highest level since pandemic began

The number of cancelled operations in Scottish hospitals is at the highest level since the beginning of the pandemic, figures show, while the number of patents stuck in hospital has also hit a new high.

Hospitals have been under enormous strain in recent months

Figures from Public Health Scotland (PHS) show in June, 22,014 operations in Scotland were scheduled to go ahead, with 1,643 (7.5 per cent) forced to be cancelled, according to Public Health Scotland figures. Several hospitals cancelled non-urgent surgery to relieve pressure as Covid case rose and staff were forced to self-isolate.

While the number of operations slated was the highest since February last year – before the pandemic took hold – the number of cancellations was the highest since March 2020, when the impact of Covid-19 forced Scotland into lockdown.

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The figures show 642 of the cancellations were due to clinical reasons, while 417 were because of capacity or non-clinical problems. A further 502 were cancelled by the patient.

Scottish Lib Dem health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “These new figures show that even though life feels more normal, NHS services are under more pressure than ever.

“No hospital will be taking the decision to cancel operations lightly. Staff know it means more discomfort and pain for patients.

“But services are straining, and with too few resources clinicians are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

“The Scottish Government have to find a way to show them a light at the end of the tunnel. That means meaningful support for those on the front line, with new clear targets and a comprehensive NHS recovery plan.”

Meanwhile, so-called bed blocking has reached the highest level since the start of the pandemic.

PHS said 37,136 bed days were lost in June, despite patients being well enough to leave hospital – the highest figure since March last year.

The figure is a 57 per cent increase from the same time last year and 5 per cent higher than in May.

Per day during June, an average of 1,238 beds were occupied in Scotland as a result of so-called bed blocking, 9 per cent higher than the previous month, and the highest number since the pandemic hit Scotland.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “The whole health and social care system has faced significant pressure due to the pandemic and its wider impact, but frontline staff have been tremendous in delivering care.

“As we emerge safely from coronavirus restrictions we are seeing pent-up demand coming through the system with many of those ready to leave hospital now requiring a far more extensive package of care to be in place before they can be discharged.

“Staffing capacity is also under pressure as a result of self-isolation and sickness, along with the traditional increase in leave during the summer months. We are actively seeking to address these pressures with the launch of a national recruitment process this week, liaising with local authorities and wider health and social care partners.

“Disclosure Scotland has also agreed to fast track its clearance processes for new entrants into the social care workforce. Despite these pressures, current numbers of delayed discharge days remain significantly below the level seen before the pandemic. The 37,136 figure for June this year is down 12 per cent on the 42,252 for June 2019.”

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