HEALTH chiefs in the Lothians are being forced to cancel a soaring number of operations – because they have no beds.
More than one in ten elective operations in Lothian was cancelled in September, as rising demand places strain on the region’s hospitals.
NHS figures reveal that 600 pre-planned operations were postponed that month, equating to around 20 patients having their procedures cancelled each day.
The number of operations cancelled due to bed shortages has tripled since May, as 84 elective operations were delayed due to a spike in urgent cases.
Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said he was concerned that NHS Lothian would not be able to cope with the winter months ahead. He said: “These are unacceptable figures. Not only is a cancelled operation a massive inconvenience but in some cases it could affect a patient’s health and wellbeing.
“The winter is due to bring additional challenges for the NHS because when the bad weather hits it is understandable that some operations need to be cancelled. This is a wake-up call for both the SNP and NHS Lothian and hopefully they’re prepared for the winter months ahead.”
Cancelling operations is regarded as a last resort by NHS bosses as it can have a negative impact on both doctors and patients.
Lothian hospitals are struggling to cope with demand as the Evening News reported last month that waiting times for outpatient treatments have soared to a five-year high.
Ian Ritchie, president of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, said: “It is important to point out that almost half of the cancellations were made by the patients.
“However, it is still concerning that so many are being cancelled. Clearly we don’t want that number of cancellations.
“We have to hope that these were not made too late so another procedure could be done in their place. Otherwise it is a waste of resources.
“It is well documented that the NHS is struggling with capacity along with changes to health and social care.”
The health service is also struggling to combat bed blocking – where patients cannot be discharged due to lack of social care – and staff shortages.
Professor Alex McMahon, director of strategic planning, performance reporting and information at NHS Lothian said: “We apologise to anyone who has had their operation rescheduled. We know that it can cause inconvenience and distress for patients and that is why it is a decision that is never taken lightly.
“There are unavoidable circumstances which mean operations have to be rescheduled including emergency admissions, which obviously have to receive priority, be treated quickly and cannot be planned for. Our winter planning work will help predict demand and boost capacity, with the extension of seven-day services and hospital at home systems.
“We will also continue to work closely with our local authority colleagues to improve patient flow, which will free up beds for our elective patients.
“We also recognise that we have a higher than average number of patients who defer their own operation and over the coming months, we are planning to improve our communications with them to try and reduce that figure.”