Five private hospitals are to perform urgent operations and cancer treatments for the NHS to help the service maintain patient care during the coronavirus crisis.
The Scottish Government confirmed that independent hospitals would be carrying out elective care from this week, to ensure patients with an urgent need can still be treated.
Urgent care and cancer treatment, including breast surgery, will now be carried out at the Albyn Hospital in Aberdeen, the Kings Park Hospital in Stirling, the Nuffield and Ross Hall hospitals in Glasgow and the Spire Hospital in Edinburgh.
The move was announced as Pam Dudek, the chief executive of NHS Highland, told MSPs on Holyrood’s Health Committee that medics at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness were now only carrying out urgent surgeries.
Speaking about the impact that coronavirus had had on the health board, she said: “We had to step down significantly elective care during wave one and have had to pull back on it in these last two weeks, back to urgent and move away from routine electives in Raigmore, which we hope will only be for the short term.”
Similarly, last week both NHS Ayrshire and Arran and NHS Lanarkshire announced they had been forced to postpone elective surgeries in the wake of rising Covid-19 cases.
In this wave of the pandemic the number of patients needing hospital care has exceeded the peak reached in April, with figures on Monday showing there were almost 2,000 people with coronavirus being treated in Scotland’s hospitals.
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said the additional capacity provided by the independent sector – as well as by the NHS Golden Jubilee Hospital in Clydebank and the temporary NHS Louisa Jordan Hospital in Glasgow – was “very welcome”.
She pledged: “The Scottish Government will continue to work closely with health boards to ensure those requiring urgent elective and vital cancer care can be seen as quickly and safely as possible.
“Even as we expand our vaccination and testing programmes, the number of Covid patients within our hospitals remains very high – so it is absolutely vital that people continue to stay home, protect the NHS, and save lives.”