Nicola Sturgeon says claims of delays in paediatric surgery are being investigated after the case of a nine-year-old who has had to wait months for an operation was raised at Holyrood.
Anas Sarwar said Harvey Martin, from Inverclyde, has had to wait months in “excruciating pain” for spinal surgery.
The Scottish Labour leader also raised concerns from paediatric surgeon Dr Chris Adams, who said up to a quarter of operations in NHS Lothian are cancelled due to staff shortages.
During First Minister’s Questions, Sarwar said nine-year-old Harvey suffers from neurofibromatosis, which causes tumours to grow on the nervous system.
Harvey was told in August last year that he needed urgent surgery to correct a curve in his spine.
Sarwar said: “Seven months on, he is still waiting. The curve is now harming his internal organs and he is left in excruciating pain.
“A nine-year-old in excruciating pain for seven months. This is a serious consequence of incompetence.”
Sturgeon said progress is being made in the recovery of the NHS from the pandemic.
She said: “I have heard concerns that have been expressed by Dr Chris Adams.
“I know these concerns have been investigated by NHS Lothian.”
She said she had asked officials to ensure there is “external assurance” around the claims, saying she would look into the details of Harvey’s case.
The First Minister said staffing levels in Scotland are higher than elsewhere in the UK, adding: “The NHS, as all of us know, is facing significant challenges. It is largely down to Covid.”
Sarwar said Dr Adams been clear that the problems were not due to Covid.
The Labour leader said: “This is a crisis 16 years in the making because of SNP mismanagement of our NHS and none of the candidates to replace Nicola Sturgeon are up to the job of fixing it.”
Sturgeon responded: “Anas Sarwar must be one of the only people – of course Douglas Ross is in this category as well – that steadfastly refuses to recognise the impact of Covid on the NHS.”
She also denied any NHS staff had been “gagged” and whistleblowing arrangements are in place.
Labour later published a statement on behalf of Harvey’s mother Natalie Martin.
She said: “I’m absolutely appalled by what’s happened.
“Harvey is in constant pain, struggling to sleep and missing out on school and other activities.
“It’s totally unacceptable in this day and age that this is happening in Scotland.”