FIVE pre-planned operations a day were cancelled in Lothian’s hospitals throughout January due to a lack of beds, staff or equipment.
The percentage of postponed procedures was at its highest since records began last May.
In total, nearly 150 operations were cancelled in January as hospitals tried to grapple with high demand during the busy winter period.
Health chiefs said cancellations were only ordered as a last resort and nearly half of cancellations were requested by patients themselves.
But 3.1 per cent of the 4835 scheduled operations in January didn’t take place for non-clinical reasons – up from 2.3 per cent the previous month and just 0.6 per cent – or 27 cases – last May.
The News revealed last month how one-year-old Layton Tait had vital surgery to help him breathe cancelled four times by the Sick Kids Hospital due to a lack of beds.
Miles Briggs, Lothian Conservative candidate, said: “The fact that we have seen an increase in the number of patients in NHS Lothian who have had their operations cancelled for non-clinical reasons is disappointing, not least for the patients affected.
“I know from speaking to NHS staff that they too feel hugely frustrated.
“It is clear NHS Lothian are facing many pressures from staff shortages to limited beds available.”
It comes after the News revealed one in four GP practices in Lothian had restricted its list to new patients.
Pressures on family doctors and out-of-hours services are having a knock-on effect on the wider NHS, warned Dr Jean Turner, patron of the Scotland Patients Association.
She said: “It can be really stressful and unpleasant for patients to have operations cancelled or to have to ring on the day to see if you have a bed.
“You can’t change things in the health service without there being a knock-on effect in another part. The role of the GP is very important in helping people in the community.”
A spokesperson for NHS Lothian Acute Services apologised to those whose operations had been rescheduled and said the decision was never taken lightly.
The spokesperson said: “There are unavoidable circumstances which often mean operations have to be rescheduled, including emergency admissions, which obviously have to receive priority and cannot be planned for.
“In January this year, a total of 4835 patients were cared for in the theatre system in NHS Lothian. A total of 645 procedures were re-scheduled, with 149 postponed because of capacity or non-clinical reasons.
“Nearly half (314) of rescheduled procedures were at the request of the patient.
“We are keen to ensure patients keep their appointments and it is a key priority to develop schemes to make it easier for them to attend and arrange an appointment at a time suitable for them.”