NHS Lothian has defended itself after again failing to meet a key target for reducing patient waiting times.
The Scottish Government previously set the goal of having at least 90 per cent of patients beginning treatment within 18 weeks, with the target coming into effect at the end of last year.
Across Scotland, figures for June showed that 92.4 per cent of patients whose waiting time from referral to starting treatment could be measured got medical help within 18 weeks.
But NHS Lothian, which was slammed earlier this year for manipulating its waiting times, narrowly missed the target, with 89 per cent of patients treated within 18 weeks.
The health board was one of only two that failed to meet the target – with Forth Valley performing most poorly at just 88.4 per cent – and has failed to meet a Scottish Government-imposed waiting times target this year.
In October, NHS Lothian found itself engulfed by scandal after it emerged the health board had offered surgery in Harrogate and Northumberland to some patients. When they declined, they were not included in a list of patients waiting more than the target 18 weeks for treatment.
In an effort to reduce waiting times, NHS Lothian has turned to the private sector.
Responding to the figures, Dr Jean Turner of the Scotland Patients Association said: “NHS Lothian will have improved their figures because they are spending NHS money in the private sector when they should have done more to do it within the NHS.”
Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: “The true extent of what NHS Lothian was hiding is really now becoming clear.
“This deception went right to the top, but the only ones to suffer were the patients.
“I also have sympathy with those workers who have been left to clean up the mess.
“Millions have been spent already on this problem, but it’s important lessons are learned.”
NHS Lothian medical director Dr David Farquharson, who apologised to affected patients, said: “We have already said that the scale of the issue is unprecedented in Scotland and it will not be fixed overnight.
“However, we are working hard to ensure we fulfil our responsibilities and to put us in a position to manage demand in the future.
“Cases are being prioritised by clinical need and the complexity of the treatment required. By working with external providers to provide routine procedures we are ensuring that many patients receive treatment quickly and are freeing up capacity within our own services for the complex cases in speciality areas.”