Nearly 100,000 operations cancelled in three years

By Laura Paterson, Political Reporter, Press Association Scotland

Nearly 100,000 operations have been cancelled across Scotland’s NHS since 2016.

Health secretary Jeane Freeman said 97,322 elective procedures had to be rescheduled in that time – equivalent to 89 per day.

The government began formally recording the incidents in May 2015 and following a drop from 34,581 in 2016 to 30,731 in 2017, the number rose to 32,010 last year.

The statistics were published following a parliamentary question from Scottish Conservative health spokesman Miles Briggs.

Mr Briggs said: “In an organisation the size of the NHS there will always be cancelled procedures, and some of these cancellations will have been unavoidable.

“But the fact nearly 100,000 operations have been scrapped since the SNP decided to record these statistics is eye-watering.

“This will have created massive heartache and inconvenience for thousands of patients and their families.

“It’s more proof that the SNP government simply isn’t up to the task of running Scotland’s NHS.”

He said staff and resources were “completely overstretched” due to “shambolic” workforce planning.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said the waiting times improvement plan would tackle cancelled operations (Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament/PA)

In her answer to the parliamentary question, Ms Freeman said: “The decision to cancel an operation is never taken lightly and we continue to work closely with health boards to ensure cancellations are kept to a minimum and that procedures for cancer patients are not postponed.

“Where operations are cancelled, they will be rescheduled at the earliest opportunity.

“Our waiting times improvement plan, backed with more than £850 million of funding, will help increase capacity and efficiency, and introduce new models of care which will help us to further reduce the number of cancellations.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Over this three year period, more than 930,000 operations have been carried out – an average of more than 850 per day.

“There are a number of reasons why operations can be cancelled, in fact 38% of all cancellations were at the request of the patient, and 35% were for clinical reasons. Clearly, if a patient is not clinically able to have an operation, the right course of action is that it doesn’t go ahead.

“Of the planned operations over this three year period, the number cancelled for non-clinical reasons, such as capacity, was 2.2% – an average of 21 per day.

“The decision for a board to postpone an elective procedure is never taken lightly. We continue to work closely with health boards to ensure cancellations are kept to a minimum and that any postponed procedures will be rescheduled at the earliest opportunity.”