The number of operations planned in January was almost 30% less than the same month in 2020, new Public Health Scotland (PHS) figures show.
The statistics which were released on Tuesday show 17,539 operations were planned in January, a drop of 28.1% from 2020.
Opposition politicians said the fact the figure remained below pre-pandemic levels pointed to a failure of the Scottish Government’s recovery plan.
Tthe Scottish Government pointed to the number of planned operations being 1.6% higher than in December and 32.3% higher than in January of last year.
Meanwhile, 9% of planned operations in January were cancelled either on the day they were due to take place or the day before, decreasing from 10.6% the previous month, but remaining largely similar to the pre-pandemic level.
Of the cancellations, 552 (3.1%) were done by the hospital for clinical reasons, while 420 (2.4%) were due to capacity or non-clinical reasons and 575 (3.3%) were cancelled by the patient.
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “Despite continuing pressures from Covid-19, an average of 515 operations were carried out each day in January 2023. This is up from 498 in December 2022 and higher than 390 in January last year, demonstrating the continued progress of NHS Scotland’s recovery.
“During January 2023, 91.0% of operations were performed as planned with only 14 operations per day (2.4%) cancelled for capacity or non-clinical reasons, which is relatively lower than in December 2022 and January 2020 (pre-Covid).
“While there are always fluctuations in cancelled operations throughout the year, particularly during winter, this has been an exceptionally challenging winter for the NHS due to the cumulative effect of seasonal pressures.
“We are working closely with health boards across Scotland to ensure those patients that had their operations cancelled as a result of winter pressures are seen as quickly as possible.”
But Scottish Tory health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane said the figures showed “the failure of Humza Yousaf’s flimsy NHS recovery plan.”
He added: “His inaction means that far too many patients are still suffering in agony waiting to undergo crucial operations.
“Hundreds of patients are still having operations cancelled for capacity reasons, through no fault of their own or dedicated frontline staff.
“Patients should never have ended up in situations – especially during a cost-of-living crisis – where they had to fork out money to go private and in some cases even abroad to undergo operations.
“Scotland’s NHS remains in crisis on the SNP’s watch due to their failure to properly resource frontline services.”
Meanwhile, Scottish Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “People need to know that they can get the treatment they need when they need it. But on every metric, this Government is failing our NHS and those who rely on it.
“If we are to have any hope that the tide can turn on this crisis, the next first minister must scrap the current recovery plan and devise a new strategy urgently.”
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