More than 400,000 operations have been cancelled across the NHS in Scotland since the beginning of the Covid pandemic, according to new figures.
Since March 2020 a total of 401,992 surgeries have been axed, according to analysis by the Scottish Liberal Democrats.
The latest figures showed that 1,759 operations were cancelled in March – with this up from 1,525 the previous month.
This total does not include NHS Lothian, which has been unable to provide information to Public Health Scotland on its surgeries since November 2022.
With 21,350 operations scheduled for March 2023 – up from 18,069 the previous month – health secretary Michael Matheson said the figures showed “continued progress” by the NHS.
Matheson said: “Despite continuing pressures on the system, an average of 632 operations were carried out each day in March 2023 – 7% higher than the previous month, and demonstrates the continued progress of NHS Scotland’s recovery.”
But 8.2% of planned surgeries for March were cancelled either on the day of the operation or the day before, Public Health Scotland’s figures showed.
The health body added that the proportion of cancelled operations was down slightly from 8.4% in February, but “remains comparable to pre-pandemic levels” of 8.1% in March 2019.
The total for March 2023 included 420 operations which had to be cancelled by the hospital due to capacity or non-clinical reasons.
Scottish LibDem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton described the number of operations that have been cancelled since March 2020 as “absolutely staggering”.
He said: “Backlogs escalating to near uncontrollable levels have failed to prompt any urgent action from the health secretary. It is alarming to think what must happen for him to act.”
Hitting out at the First Minister, who was health secretary until he won the SNP leadership contest in March, Cole-Hamilton added: “Humza Yousaf left our NHS on its knees, so continuity won’t cut it- it’s insulting to pretend it will.
“Patients and NHS staff deserve better than half-hearted Government commitments to tackle the crisis.
“If there is any chance for the tide to be turned, this new Government must scrap the current recovery plan and urgently devise a new one which will prioritise the recruitment and retention of staff through a burnout prevention strategy and a staff and social care assembly.”