Scotland: More than 2,000 scheduled operations axed at short notice

More than 2,000 operations were cancelled on or one day before a patient was due to be treated in September, figures show.

Operations scheduled to take place over the month increased by 2.3% to 23,209, compared to 22,688 during the same month of 2022, figures published by Public Health Scotland (PHS) show.

However, 9.1% of them – or 2,105 – were cancelled the day before or on the day of the planned surgery in September this year, up from 8.6% in August.

The figure is also slightly above pre-pandemic rates, with 8.7% of planned operations cancelled in September 2019.

Of the cancelled operations in September, 738 – or 3.2% – of them were cancelled by the hospital for clinical reasons, 739 (3.2%) were cancelled by the patient, and 541 (2.3%) were cancelled by the hospital because of capacity or non-clinical reasons.

According to PHS figures, planned operations have been steadily increasing since Covid restrictions first impacted services in March 2020.

Operations are being cancelled either on the day or the day before they were meant to be carried out (Photo by Lynsey Addario/Getty Images)

In the 12 months to September 2023, planned operations increased 14.9% compared to the previous year, whereas a 12.7% increase was recorded when comparing the year ending September 2022 and the same period of 2021.

But activity remains lower than pre-pandemic levels, when there were 27,704 planned operations – 16.2% more than the latest month.

Scottish Tory health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane said: “For all the SNP’s spin, the number of operations remains well below pre-Covid levels, and nearly one in 10 suffering patients are having their operations cancelled at short notice.”

He added: “The SNP have failed to get a grip on this crisis for too long and now patients and my dedicated colleagues are facing the prospect of a truly terrifying winter.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Despite ongoing pressures on the health system, there is continued progress with 23,209 planned operations in September 2023, a 2.3% increase on figures for September 2022.

“The 14.9% increase for the latest year compared to the previous 12 months demonstrates the continued post-pandemic recovery of the NHS.”

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