There were 151,701 fewer operations scheduled in 2020 than in 2019 – a 44.9% drop, according to NHS Scotland figures.
Last year there were 186,119 planned operations scheduled in Scotland’s hospitals, down from the 337,820 due to take place in 2019.
Of those, 16,249 (8.7%) were cancelled on either the day of the operation or the day before, compared to the 29,779 (8.8%) cancelled operations in 2019.
The latest figures reveal that in December, there were 16,740 scheduled operations, a decrease of 6.6% from the 17,916 in November and down by 35.1% from the 25,791 in December 2019.
Responding to the statistics, Scottish Labour said the drop in planned operations showed that the NHS in Scotland is under increasing strain, with diminishing capacity to cope with non-coronavirus related illnesses.
The party’s interim leader Jackie Baillie said: “This situation has become much worse, with thousands of people missing out on operations and check-ups, forced to live in pain or worried about when they will receive treatment for severe and life-threatening illnesses.
“This cannot continue. Scottish Labour has been calling for resources to boost the NHS and expand testing, but the Scottish Government has moved too slowly on this and the vaccine rollout.
“The SNP mismanagement has left our NHS in a perilously weak situation where our health services have little capacity to respond to anything other than Covid-19.
“These figures should be a wake-up call. SNP ministers must take urgent action and produce a plan to get our health services back on track before more lives are put at risk.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP said: “These statistics show the terrible reality we live in.
“Despite the best efforts of our NHS heroes, Covid-19 unfortunately has prevented many procedures from being carried out.
“People are in pain, friends and families feel powerless, while the NHS backlog continues to grow and more people end up in the same situation.
“The difference in operations taking place in 2019 and 2020 can be linked to the pandemic, and the unprecedented burden on the NHS, which was ill-equipped for it.
“However, a pandemic does not ease the pain of the loss of a loved one. I would like to extend my condolences to all those who lost their loved ones, and to thank our NHS for all their continued efforts during the past year.”
Scottish Conservative health spokesman Donald Cameron said the situation had “reached a critical stage” and warned against letting waiting times “grow to uncontrollable levels”.
He added: “While our hospitals continue to tackle Covid-19 cases, SNP ministers must not forget that there are patients waiting on vital operations and procedures, many of whom will be in pain.
“We are facing a ticking timebomb in our health service over the operations backlog that has spiralled over the last year.
“The SNP need to urgently guarantee that our health boards will be supported with every resource required to carry out procedures, wherever possible.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We understand it has been difficult for those who have had cancelled operations.
“However, as we see Covid-19 case numbers decline we are very focused on remobilising those services we have necessarily reduced.
“Because of this, we are investing £200 million in a network of new elective and diagnostic treatment centres which will add extra capacity for hip and knee replacement patients across Scotland.
“We also published a national clinical prioritisation framework for supporting elective care on November 16 2020 which ensures patients have a clear and realistic expectation of when they will receive treatment that is clinically appropriate to their individual circumstances.”
She explained that the NHS Louisa Jordan is “playing a vital role” in reopening parts of the health service, hosting urgent outpatient and diagnostic appointments, training facilities for staff, blood transfusion services and now as a mass vaccination centre.
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