Comment: The problem is a stubborn one to solve

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it would perhaps be wise to take with a pinch of salt any suggestion that NHS Lothian’s waiting list troubles will be cured by Christmas.

But there is good reason to believe that by then we will be receiving prompter hospital treatment in the Capital than we have done for years.

Two years after the scandal of the “fiddled” waiting lists was exposed, the scale of the problems facing the region’s hospitals remains huge.

Almost 1000 patients waited longer than the Scottish Government’s 12-week target for their operations in the Lothians during March, the last month for which figures are available.

Everyone from the doctors and nurses to Health Secretary Alex Neil knows that is unacceptable.

But the problem has proved a particularly stubborn one to solve. The reasons for this are well known. The struggle to treat an ageing population – and the fast-growing one in Scotland – at a time when hospitals across the UK and beyond are often unable to find enough qualified staff.

Today though it it clear just how much progress has been made in recent months. Record numbers of patients – around 500 a month – are being cleared from the backlog of those waiting for treatment. Two-thirds of those who were treated after waiting beyond the 12-week cut-off point in Scotland were patients of NHS Lothian.

That shows both the scale of the ongoing problem – with several hundred new patients every month seeing the clock tick past 12 weeks as they wait for operations – and the huge efforts that are being made to treat them.

What is more, most of them are now being treated in our local hospitals instead of being sent across Scotland or to England to receive faster treatment.

Tackling the seemingly endless waiting lists must feel like pushing water uphill for our medics – but the good news is that things are starting slowly, but surely to improve.