The number of planned operations being carried out on the NHS in Scotland continues to lag behind pre-pandemic levels.

The latest figures for August this year show that 26,006 procedures were booked for theatres.

This is the highest number since February 2020, but compares to 28,036 in August 2019 - representing a dip of 7.2%.

There has been a steady rise in elective activity, albeit far short of the levels that were set out in the Scottish Government's original recovery plan in August 2021 - before Omicron.

Between August 2021 and August 2022, the number of planned operations increased 10.2%, but the latest year-on-year increase up to August 2023 was 17.4%.

READ MORE: Number waiting over three years for NHS op trebles to nearly 1600

The percentage of operations being cancelled on the day or the day before it was due to take place is comparable to pre-Covid levels.

In August, a total of 2,229 procedures were cancelled, mainly by the hospital due to clinical reasons - such as the patient not being well enough for surgery - or by the patient themselves.

A smaller number - 521 procedures - were cancelled by the hospital due to capacity or non-clinical reasons such as bed or staff shortages.

Separate figures for August show that patients who were stuck in hospital as a result of delayed discharge were typically occupying a bed for an extra 28 days when they were ready to go home or be transferred into community facilities such as care homes.

Shortages of social care packages is a major factor.

READ MORE: 'Ticking timebomb' as cancer incidence projected to increase by 22% 

A total of 1,808 people were affected by delayed discharge in August - down from 1,897 in July - but an increase on April to June levels.

An increase in Covid infections during July and August may have impacted on discharges as patients who test positive for the disease cannot be admitted from hospitals into care homes.

The Herald: Delayed discharge remains much higher than it was in 2020Delayed discharge remains much higher than it was in 2020 (Image: PHS)

It comes days after a report by Audit Scotland cautioned that NHS Scotland's new network of national treatment centres (NTCs) are among the major infrastructure projects facing delays and cost increases as a result of inflation. 

Currently only three treatment centres are operational out of the 11 planned, including centres in Fife and Highland which opened earlier this year. 

The NTCs are a core element of the Scottish Government's NHS recovery plan, which aimed to ramp up elective activity to 120% of pre-pandemic levels by 2025/26. 

Auditor General, Stephen Boyle, said last week that the NTCs were "central to the governments ambitions to reduce waiting times as a consequence of the pandemic" and that delaying their construction "inevitably will have a direct impact on people lives and experience of the NHS".

READ MORE: Is crumbling infrastructure impacting on the NHS?

By the end of June this year, there were nearly 1,600 people waiting for an elective inpatient or day case procedure on the NHS in Scotland who had been waiting more than three years.

Audit Scotland's report also noted that almost a third of NHS buildings in Scotland are over 50 years old, with a maintenance backlog totalling £1.1 billion worth of works needed.