Almost one in 10 operations at the Borders General Hospital at Melrose is being cancelled by medics there for non-clinical reasons, latest figures reveal.
Figures for August show that 58% of all operations cancelled by NHS Borders that month were for reasons such as shortage of staff or operating theatres being unavailable.
Its cancellation rate of just short of 10%, revealed in figures released by NHS Scotland’s information services division, was its highest since March last year.
August’s statistics also show NHS Borders missed a key accident-and-emergency target of ensuring that 95% of patients are seen within four hours for the second month in a row.
Those figures are a cause for concern, according to Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk MP John Lamont, and he is calling on the Scottish Government to invest more in regional health boards.
“These figures are yet further evidence that, despite the hard work of our local doctors and nurses, NHS Borders remains underfunded,” he said.
“Cancelling an operation is frustrating for a patient, but it is also a waste of resource for the health board.
“These figures show that far too many operations are being cancelled because of a lack of resources.
“Now that A&E waiting times are falling below the target, this really should be setting off alarm bells in the Scottish Government.
“Rural health boards across Scotland face unique challenges in the cost of delivering healthcare and attracting staff.”
An NHS Borders spokesperson said: “We recognise that waiting for an operation can be an unsettling time for our patients, and therefore cancelling operations is never a decision that we take lightly.
“However, ensuring that we provide safe, person-centred, high-quality services is incredibly important to us.
“In August, 16 of the 26 operations cancelled were due to a locum ophthalmology consultant no longer being available as part of a national initiative to reduce waiting times.
“Of the remaining 42% of cancelled operations, half were cancelled by the patients themselves and the other half were due to clinical reasons – for example, patients not being well enough to undergo surgery.
“We continue to work hard to ensure that our patients receive timely treatment and care, including through our accident-and-emergency department.
“We recently experienced exceptionally high demand in the department, which, in turn, put pressure on our bed availability in the hospital.
“We continue to engage with the public to advise them of the most appropriate services that are available to them both in hospital and out in the local community in order to ensure that A&E is only used for emergencies.
“The overall response to this has been positive.”
The latest statistics from NHS Scotland’s ISD also reveal that, from April to June, 97.5% of patients in the Borders were treated within 62 days of urgent suspected cancer referral, and 100% of them were seen within 31 days of their dates of decision to treat.
Medical director Cliff Sharp added: “NHS Borders maintains a strong position in the delivery of cancer diagnosis and treatment.
“This reflects the ongoing hard work and commitment from all our staff who continue to work together as effectively as possible to deliver the best standards of care possible for our patients, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for that.
“I would also like to assure our patients that we will continue to focus on the delivery of timely treatment for those facing cancer.”