elderly patients in need of hip replacements face months of pain amid rocketing waiting times for orthopaedic surgery in Lothian.
Latest figures show the number of people waiting more than the target 12 weeks to see an orthopaedic consultant has increased from 515 in April 2015 to 2927 in August this year.
Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs said he had been contacted by a woman in her 70s whose GP had told her she needed a hip replacement as soon as possible. She is in severe pain and has to take painkillers all the time.
But she now faces a wait of up to seven months to see a consultant and would then have to wait again for an operation.
When Mr Briggs took up her case with NHS Lothian, the health board said an increase in referrals had resulted in more patients needing to be seen and an increase in waiting times.
It continued: “We therefore apologise that as a result of this, and despite significant efforts to limit waiting times, we are regrettably unable to meet the target in this instance.”
In a debate in the Scottish Parliament yesterday on the state of the NHS in Scotland, Mr Briggs, who is Tory public health spokesman, said a recent Audit Scotland report had highlighted problems of recruitment and retention of staff.
“Student nurse numbers were cut by this government by around a quarter between 2005 and 2013.
“The financial position of our health service is also of great concern. Lothian MSPs are acutely aware of the financial challenges facing our own health board and how this is impacting on the delivery of health services to people and communities we represent. I have elderly constituents, in desperate need of hip replacements and in severe pain every day, facing waits which they have been told could be up to seven months just for an initial consultation with an orthopaedic consultant. This is clearly unacceptable.”
Labour’s health spokesman Anas Sarwar said the audit report was “the worst state of the NHS report since devolution”, as he accused the SNP of “letting down staff and patients”.
But Health Secretary Shona Robison insisted Audit Scotland had backed the government’s visions and strategies.
She said: “One of the big achievements of this government has been the integration of health and care services, one of the biggest reforms in the public sector in a generation.”
Lyn McDonald, site director at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, said: “We are aware of the concerns raised by Mr Briggs on behalf of his constituent. Unfortunately, due to an increasing number of patient referrals to the orthopaedic service, some patients are waiting longer than we would like for an outpatient appointment and I apologise for this.
“Our team is working hard to prioritise patients by clinical need, minimise waiting times and ensure patients are seen as quickly as possible.”