Scotland's health boards must be investigated to see if hospitals have been treating private eye cases while overlooking NHS procedures, the Scottish Conservatives have said.

We exclusively revealed on Saturday that thousands of patients with serious sight-threatening eye conditions are being seen to via telephone and video consultations while private “non urgent” cases are being treated on hospital grounds.

Patients have been admitted to University Hospital Ayr for procedures including laser capsulotomy, which is used to improve vision after cataract surgery, while NHS patients are largely being managed with telephone and video consultations. 

READ THE REPORT: Anger as eye specialists see private patients at Scottish hospital while thousands face Covid appointment delays

The Herald has evidence of at least three private patients being seen during the pandemic at University Hospital Ayr, with one seen in the last few weeks.

Now, the Scottish Conservatives have said the SNP must investigate if this is happening in other health boards across Scotland, and not just at NHS Ayrshire and Arran.

The party's public health spokesman Brian Whittle said: “It’s completely unacceptable for patients to be cut-off from NHS services while those who are private get preferential treatment.

“The SNP’s disgraceful attitude towards patient waiting lists is once again evident here at a time where many already feel vulnerable due to the pandemic.

“Patients deserve answers to this and the Scottish Government must carry out a full investigation to identify if this is happening at other health boards across Scotland.

“Clinicians should not be placed in the scenario of sacrificing NHS patients by seeing private patients instead of them – it’s an appalling situation to be left in.

“This is another example, similar to NHS dentistry services, where patients are being neglected because of chronic underfunding leading to huge waiting lists in the sector.”

After The Herald made the health board aware that we had documentary proof that private patients were being seen, they said: "We can confirm that since the introduction of national and organisational guidelines on this issue, no private patients have been seen on NHS Ayrshire & Arran premises."

A spokeswoman added: “As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, NHS Ayrshire & Arran cancelled routine outpatient appointments to allow clinicians to focus on the immediate response to the pandemic, as well as free up clinical areas. 

READ MORE: Long Covid patients 'terrified' they won't get lives back 

“Near Me video consultations and telephone consultations have proved vital in delivering health and social care during the pandemic. 

“While we have now restarted some routine ophthalmology appointments, we have had to look at how we deliver these services.

"This is not only to ensure patients get the treatment they need, but also to ensure staff and patients are safe.

“Those attending for an appointment will see that we have a reduced number of rooms and recovery space available, and we can’t see as many patients every day. 

“We will, therefore, continue to use Near Me video consultations and telephone consultations, where clinically appropriate. 

“I would like to reassure members of the public that we are doing everything we can to work as efficiently as possible, and I would like to thank them for their patience and understanding during this time as we aim to keep everyone safe.”