Hundreds of operations cancelled due to staff shortages at Scottish hospitals

More than 500 operations were cancelled in just one month because hospitals were not able to cope, it emerged today.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has been called to increase resources for hospitals to stop operations being cancelled.
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has been called to increase resources for hospitals to stop operations being cancelled.

New NHS Scotland statistics show that 571 planned operations were scrapped in February for non-clinical and capacity reasons.

The figures were today claimed to reveal the strain on NHS staff and Health Secretary Jeane Freeman faced calls to act to ease NHS resource pressures.

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Of all 27,741 planned operations for February a total of 2.457 were cancelled - 875 by the patient and 879 by the hospital based on clinical reasons.

Two per cent of all operations - 571 - were cancelled by hospitals due to capacity or non-clinical reasons including beds or staff not being available, equipment being unavailable or dirty, or over-running theatre sessions.

However that number is down on February 2018 when it stood at 711 operations being cancelled for non clinical reasons.

Scottish Labour's health spokesperson Monica 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.”

Alex Cole-Hamilton, Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson, added: “Hundreds of patients are missing out on planned operations through no fault of their own. That’s unacceptable.

“For many patients, the rigmarole of cancelled and rescheduled surgeries can be extremely distressing. Naturally people need to get psyched up for surgery and cancellations cause huge disruption to their lives.

“NHS staff do an incredible job but the simple fact is they haven’t got the resources they need to meet demand and keep operations running to schedule. The Health Secretary needs to look carefully at these pressures.”

The statistics also showed a fall in the numbers being cancelled overall - 8.9 per cent of all planned operations compared to 10.3 per cent in February 2018.

Health Secretary Jeane 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.

“Today’s statistics show on average more than 900 procedures took place across Scotland’s hospital each day in February. The number of planned operations in February was up on the same month last year, and cancellations were down. Out of a total of 27,741 operations planned, 2.1% were cancelled for capacity reason.

“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.”