Bed and staff shortages see record ops cancelled in Lothian

Bed and staff shortages have meant record operation cancellations for NHS Lothian. Picture: Greg Macvean
Bed and staff shortages have meant record operation cancellations for NHS Lothian. Picture: Greg Macvean
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A RECORD number of operations have been cancelled in Lothian due to a shortage of beds or staff.

A total of 1,767 cancellations were due to “capacity” or other non-clinical reasons in the year to August – an increase of 753 on the previous 12 months.

Lothian MSP and Tory health spokesman Miles Briggs said reductions in bed numbers in Lothian hospitals, a national shortage of nurses and an ageing workforce were all factors.

He said: “SNP mismanagement of NHS Scotland’s workforce has meant thousands of patients have endured cancelled operations, with all the anxiety and uncertainty that brings, often at the last minute.”

The number of cancellations due to capacity issues varied from month to month, from highs of 370 and 417 in January and March to a low of 55 in June.

Mr Briggs said the bad weather last winter had added to winter pressures and led to some cancellations.

And he said some summer cancellations – July and August saw the figures jump to 106 and 112 – could be attributed to staff holidays.

But he said: “We need to be mitigating that and planning around it.” And he pointed to the shortage of more than 3,000 nurses across Scotland.

“A lot of nurses are looking for early retirement on top of the ageing workforce, which is a massive issue because when they do go we lose a lot of knowledge and skills.”

He also criticised the reduction in bed numbers in Lothian hospitals.

“They have been taking beds out of acute hospitals for some time. It’s part of the drive to get people into the community to be cared for. I can see the rationale but it has not worked. And now 50 per cent of all delayed discharge in Scotland is in Lothian. That feeds into the whole care crisis.”

Mr Briggs has previously highlighted the number of operations being cancelled because of a shortage of sterile equipment.

In June it was revealed that 80 operations in Lothian had been cancelled this year due to a lack of surgical equipment

And statistics recently obtained under freedom of information revealed that between April 2017 and March 2018 a total of 97 operations were cancelled due to a lack of sterilised surgical equipment.

Jacquie Campbell, chief officer of acute services at NHS Lothian, apologised to anyone whose operation had been deferred.

She said: “We know that re-scheduling an operation, regardless of the reason, can cause both distress and inconvenience for patients. The decision to do this is never taken lightly and NHS Lothian works with a strict criteria developed by clinicians to assess patients depending on their clinical need and priority before any procedure is deferred.

“There are unavoidable circumstances which mean sometimes operations have to be rescheduled, including emergency admissions which obviously have to receive priority, be treated quickly, and cannot be planned for.

“We are also working to improve our communications and processes to try and reduce the number of procedures that are rescheduled by patients themselves.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com