MANY patients in NHS Highland will see appointments cancelled as the health board confirmed plans to prioritise only the most urgent procedures after the day of the Queen's funeral was declared a bank holiday.

NHS Highland's chief executive Pam Dudek said the health board will observe a "national day of mourning to recognise the significance of the death of the Queen", with only the "most time-critical or high-risk" treatments and clinics going ahead on Monday. 

The extra bank holiday comes at a time of record waiting list backlogs for elective care as a result of the pandemic. 

In NHS Highland, there were 7,746 people on the waiting list for an inpatient or day case procedure at the end of June this year - including 1,007 who had been waiting over two years - and over 20,000 waiting for an outpatient appointment. 

However, NHS Highland previously said it was on track to eradicate two-year waits for operations in most specialties by the end of August - in line with a Scottish Government target that most health boards admitted they were unlikely to achieve. 

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A number of other health boards have said they intend to carry on with the majority of planned operations, with staff given the bank holiday in lieu to take on another date. 

Mrs Dudek said: “For patients who have scheduled treatment or clinics on Monday September 19, our intention is that only the most time-critical or high risk will go ahead and we will be making contact with those patients directly to confirm that they will still be seen and to confirm they wish to proceed with the appointment.    

“This means that many planned appointments will be cancelled and we will be contacting those impacted directly to make them aware of this, over the coming days."

Patients who do not wish to attend a scheduled appointment on Monday owing to the funeral are asked to contact NHS Highland and will have their appointment rescheduled "as soon as possible". 

Mrs Dudek added that a majority of GP and dental surgeries, pharmacies and optometrists in the region will also close for the bank holiday on Monday. 

"They will communicate with communities locally where services will be maintained and alternative arrangements to access care in place," she added. 

Flu and Covid vaccination clinics in Highland will continue as planned. 

Mrs Dudek added: “We are seeking to ensure that the impact the life and death of Her Majesty the Queen has for many patients and colleagues, and the desire to collectively mourn her death can be supported to the greatest possible extent and we thank our patients and communities for their understanding and support.” 

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Meanwhile, NHS Fife has issued a statement today saying that elective surgery will "continue to operate based on clinical priority" but that patients will be contacted directly "if their appointment needs to be rescheduled".

The health board added that flu and Covid vaccination clinics will proceed and that it intends to "retain as many of our outpatient appointments as possible".

NHS Lanarkshire said it is "seeking to achieve a balanced approach to minimising disruption to patient care while acknowledging and respecting staff’s desire to participate in the national day of mourning". 

Heather Knox, Chief Executive of NHS Lanarkshire said: “Many of our staff have kindly agreed to continue to provide planned outpatient clinics and planned elective surgery and I would like to offer my thanks for their dedication and commitment to ensuring planned appointments can go ahead on Monday.

“We are also asking patients to let us know as soon as possible if they wish to reschedule outpatient appointments or their surgery due to take place on Monday.  This will allow us more flexibility to release staff on that day.”

It comes amid reports of thousands of NHS operations being cancelled in England due to the bank holiday. 

However, in some trusts staff have described receiving "guilt trip letters" from managers warning them to have a "very good reason" for taking Monday off. 

In Scotland, efforts are being made to minimise the impact of Monday's bank holiday on patients.

Scotland's largest health board, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, said it is "putting plans in place so that scheduled appointments can continue as planned wherever possible".

NHS Forth Valley said it has "no plans to cancel operations or outpatient appointments" and is "aiming to deliver elective inpatient and day case procedures, as planned".

In some areas, including Lothian and Ayrshire, September 19 was already a local bank holiday.

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NHS Grampian said that "all planned care activity – including surgery - will be proceeding as scheduled", with winter vaccination clinics also going ahead.

NHS Borders said elective operations at the Borders General Hospital "will go ahead as planned subject to service pressures".

NHS Dumfries and Galloway said it is "working to ensure scheduled activities and appointments are maintained wherever possible", and that elective surgery "will continue to operate based on clinical priority".