Five private hospitals are to support NHS Scotland with urgent operations and cancer treatments - to help ensure the NHS can maintain patient care as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

The Scottish Government confirmed that the independent hospitals would be carrying out elective care from this week, to ensure clinically urgent patients 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.

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This additional support comes on top of the extra capacity already being provided by NHS Golden Jubilee and NHS Louisa Jordan for a number of elective treatments and outpatient appointments.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said the additional capacity was “very welcome”.

She said: “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.”

Professor Angela Thomas, acting president of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh said doctors must have assurances they continue to receive the appropriate training to aid their development.

She said: “This is a critical time for the healthcare system, so the College welcomes additional support to help deliver urgent elective procedures, such as cancer treatment.

"However, we must have assurances that if doctors in training are deployed to work in the independent sector, they will continue to receive the medical training that they need to aid their development.”

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It comes as Pam Dudek, the chief executive of NHS Highland, earlier 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.”

It follows similar announcements from both NHS Ayrshire and Arran and NHS Lanarkshire last week when they were forced to postpone elective surgeries as the number of Covid-19 cases continued to rise.

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.