Hospitals across Scotland cancelled the equivalent of 40 operations a day in January because of problems such as a lack of beds or staff, new figures have revealed.
Official NHS figures showed that of the 27,890 surgeries which were scheduled to take place, a total of 3,424 were cancelled – 12.3% of all planned procedures.
This includes 1,249 which were cancelled by the hospital due to capacity or non-clinical reasons .
That compares to the 778 operations that were cancelled on these grounds in December 2017, and is also up from January last year, when the total was 704.
Health Secretary Shona Robison said the first month of 2018 had been “exceptionally challenging” month for the NHS.
And she added that “unlike in NHS England, there was no blanket cancellation of non-urgent elective admissions”
But Liberal Democrat health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton hit out: “These new statistics show that 40 patients a day had their operations cancelled through no fault of their own during January – twice the normal rate.
“While consultants in our NHS were describing the situation as ‘absolutely catastrophic’, Shona Robison was pointing to decisions being made in England. As doctors have said, the problem is that winter-related problems are being piled on to services already struggling to get by.
“Cancellations cause immense stress and disruption to the patients being prepared for operations that didn’t take place, as well as their families and NHS staff.
“SNP ministers need to give NHS boards the support they need to get operations back on track.”
Ms Robison said: “While there are always fluctuations in cancelled operations throughout the year, particularly in winter, this has been an exceptionally challenging January for the NHS with a significant increase in the number of patients going to hospital with flu-like illness or complex health needs.
“However, despite those challenges the NHS in Scotland carried out over 24,000 planned operations in January, nearly 825 operations on average a day.
“This is down to winter contingency planning from boards and the hard work and commitment of NHS staff.”
The Health Secretary added: “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 now seen quickly by increasing the level of planned activity over the coming weeks.
“We’ve made clear to boards that patients with the greatest clinical need, such as cancer patients, should not have their operations cancelled.”