Shona Robison under mounting pressure over cancelled operations
The damaging statistics were released ahead of a Holyrood debate on Wednesday that will see the beleaguered Health Secretary’s performance put further under the microscope.
The Scottish Conservatives will use their debating time to put Ms Robison “on notice” as they demand urgent action to sort out NHS finances.
With Labour and the Liberal Democrats calling on Ms Robison to quit, the Scottish Tories will call on the Health Secretary to get a grip on the health service.
On the eve of the debate, a host of statistics raised more questions about her stewardship of the NHS.
The number of operations cancelled during March due to capacity or non-clinical reasons such as lack of beds or staff rose to 1,201.
The figure represented 4.1 per cent of planned operations, up from 2.7 per cent in February. The data also revealed that the first three months of 2018 saw 3,160 operations cancelled for capacity or non-clinical reasons.
Separate figures separate figures showed A&E departments failed to meet a key waiting time target in March.
During the month 137,820 people attended A&E with 87.9 per cent either admitted, transferred or discharged in four hours, falling below the 95 per cent target.
The latest weekly figures show 87.6 per cent of A&E patients were seen within the target time in the seven days to 22 April. Analysis of the data by Labour found that so far this year 52,025 people waited longer than the four hour waiting time target in Scotland’s hospitals so far this year.
Despite being only around one third of the way through 2018, the figure was almost half of the number for the whole of 2017. Last year saw more than 107,000 people wait longer than the four hours in Scotland’s emergency departments.
So far this year 7,266 waited more than eight hours and 1,799 have waited more than 12 hours.
Other statistics showed a 2 per cent increase in bed blocking in Scotland’s hospitals over the year.
According to the March data, 1,370 people were delayed leaving hospital despite being well enough to be discharged.
The number was up 3 per cent compared with the 1,339 people delayed at the equivalent point in March last year.
During the month, 42,628 days were spent in hospital by people whose discharge was delayed, an increase of 3 per cent on March 2017 and 11 per cent on February.
According to the Scottish Government, several health boards blamed the weather for cancelled operations. Despite this, a total of 25,399 operations were carried out during March - a rise of 7.3 per cent on the previous month.
Ms Robison said: “Severe weather and warnings not to travel did mean many staff could not get to hospital, and this level of disruption takes hospitals time to recover from.
“Despite that, on average 820 operations a day took place and feedback from boards has shown that the clear majority of cancellations for capacity or non-clinical reasons in March was due to the adverse weather.”
Labour, however, claimed that Ms Robison’s remarks were a “blizzard of spin”.
The party’s health spokesman Anas Sarwar said: “Our NHS staff did phenomenal work during the beast from the east - Shona Robison is doing them a complete disservice by hiding behind a week of extreme weather to explain the performance in our A&E wards and operating theatres for the whole of 2018.”
Mr Sarwar repeated his call for Ms Robison to resign, saying the Health Secretary was “out of her depth and out of time”.
Lib Dem health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said it was time for Ms Robison to step down.
Wednesday’s Conservative debate will see shadow health secretary Miles Briggs demand immediate publication of the current financial position for all NHS bodies.
He will also ask for monthly updates to be provided to both the Health & Sport and Audit Committees. The call is being made following controversy over NHS Tayside’s use of more than £2 million endowment money for routine NHS services and the disclosure that NHS Lothian needs an additional £31 million to reach last year’s spending levels.
Mr Briggs said: “We are putting the Cabinet Secretary and this SNP Government on notice – and calling for real action.”