NHS Lothian needs record funding to match record outpatient waiting figures, says MSP

NHS Lothian needs a record level of financial support to match a record number of patients waiting for treatment, an MSP has said.

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Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs spoke out after new figures showed the number of patients waiting for an outpatient appointment in Lothian had risen by 36 per cent to 74,546 – up from 54,673 at the end of June 2020.

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Across Scotland, nearly 400,000 people were waiting for their first outpatient appointment.

Edinburgh's Royal Infirmary Photo: Andrew O'Brien

The Public Health Scotland statistics showed outpatient activity across the country down by some 22 per cent on pre-pandemic figures and 39 per cent of those waiting for an outpatient appointment had already waited more than 16 weeks.

Scotland’s A&E waiting times also hit a record low for a third week running, with performance against the four-hour waiting time target for A&E down from 76 per cent to 75.1 per cent for the week ending August 22.

Mr Briggs said over the last ten years, the number of patients in Lothian waiting for an outpatient appointment had almost doubled, from 38,880 at the end of June 2011 to almost 75,000 now.

He said he had repeatedly argued that NHS Lothian needed fairer funding from the Scottish Government since it currently receives a lower percentage than other health boards due to the formula used to work out allocations.

He said the independent Scottish Parliament Information Centre (Spice) found the gap between the amount NHS Lothian should receive and its actual allocation added up to a total of £365.7m over the past decade.

Mr Briggs said: “Over the last decade NHS Lothian has been underfunded by SNP ministers and it is patients in Edinburgh and the Lothians who are suffering.

“NHS Lothian staff have made an incredible effort over the last year and a half and patients waiting numbers are still growing.

“Significant investment will be needed to return services to even where they were five years ago.”

Labour health spokesperson Jackie Baillie said the statistics showed the NHS was struggling to keep up with clinical demand and thousands of Scots ware in danger as a result.

She said: “The pandemic has caused the backlog to grow, but having well over half a million Scots stuck on hospital waiting lists is deeply concerning.

“It’s all too clear that the SNP has catastrophically failed to protect and then re-mobilise our NHS and the crisis in our A&E services is continuing to spiral out of control."

Statistics also showed a 16.9 per cent increase in the number of patients waiting for key diagnostic tests such as endoscopy, a CT scan or an MRI scan, compared with last year.

David Ferguson, of Cancer Research UK, said: “It’s unacceptable this target hasn’t been met for 11 years now and it’s clear action is long overdue."

He welcomed promises of new investment, but said that was little comfort to patients on the waiting list now.

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf praised NHS staff for working tirelessly throughout the pandemic.

He said hospitals were reporting more people attending A&E who were sicker and required higher levels of care. “Weekly performance is impacted due to a range of challenges including high attendances, staffing pressures due to isolation and annual leave and the continued requirement for infection control precautions.”

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