ONE in ten Lothian patients referred to a stomach and intestine specialist as routine cases are having to wait a year and a half for an appointment – when the target is 18 weeks.
The average waiting time to see a gastroenterology consultant in the area is 243 days for routine cases – almost twice the 126-day target. But ten per cent have to wait 545 days or more.
For urgent cases the average waiting time is 71 days, with ten per cent having to wait 99 days or more.
Overall, the average wait was 138 days but ten per cent had to wait 417 days.
Lothian MSP and Conservative health spokesman Miles Briggs said gastroenterologists dealt with conditions such as internal bleeding, cancer, inflammatory bowel disease and jaundice. He said there was a severe shortage of gastroenterology specialists in NHS Lothian.
But he said: “These waiting times to see a gastroenterology consultant are far too long.
“Patients in NHS Lothian, some of whom are in serious discomfort, should not have to wait over a year and a half for a diagnosis. For cases that are urgent it is inexcusable that people should have to wait over 100 days for potentially life-threatening diseases.
“This is yet another example of the Scottish Government letting down Scottish people over healthcare and a lack of workforce planning.”
Mr Briggs obtained the figures using freedom of information legislation.
Last year, statistics showed 1100 patients in Scotland waiting over a year for hospital treatment.
Gastroenterology was among the five specialisms with the most patients waiting over a year.
Urology had 303 patients waiting that long; trauma and orthopaedic surgery 277; endocrinology and diabetes 176; and gastroenterology 170.
Professor Alex McMahon, NHS Lothian’s director of nursing, said: “We are committed to providing swift, effective patient-centred care and I would like to apologise to those patients who are waiting longer than we would like for appointments.
“In line with other NHS boards across Scotland we are seeing increasing demand. We are working hard to ensure we effectively prioritise patients who need urgent care and treatment now and in the longer term. ”