Patients in most areas of Scotland are facing months of delays for surgery due to continuing”relentless” pressure on hospitals.

NHS Highland announced earlier this week that urgent and planned operations were having to be postponed following a spike in emergency admissions at the weekend.

The Herald asked every health board in Scotland if any operations were currently being cancelled due to pressure on A&E services caused by Covid admissions and seasonal illness.

Out of those who responded, only NHS Tayside, Borders, Orkney and Shetland said no procedures were currently having to be postponed due to capacity issues.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said it was continuing to prioritise emergency, trauma and cancer care alongside Covid admissions.

A spokesman said:”As is the case in Health Boards across the country it has been necessary to pause some elective activity in most of our hospitals. 

“We continually review the situation and are increasing the number of theatres when capacity becomes available and when it is safe to do so. 

“During this difficult time, we would urge everyone that, unless their condition is life-threatening, they should not attend an Emergency Department. 

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NHS Lanarkshire announced in August that it was cancelling the majority of planned operations and said it had been unable to re-start surgery as yet.

Judith Park, director of acute services, said the pressure on services, “showed no signs of easing”.

She said: “We are facing relentless pressures, bed shortages and staff shortages due to sickness, stress and self-isolation and our hospital sites are all at maximum capacity.

“We are working through a number of actions to try to reduce pressure on our sites but the safety of our patients and staff is our top priority and we are not yet in a position to be able to bring patients into our hospitals for planned surgery.”

NHS Lothian said emergency and urgent surgery was continuing but all hospitals were running at reduced capacity for planned operations. 

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Ayrshire and Arran said surgery re-categorised as Priority 3 and 4 in April had been postponed.

Priority 3 means it should not be delayed by more than three months and includes; surgery for prostate cancer, gastric surgery, paediatric dental extractions and reconstructive surgery after breast cancer.

Priority 4 operations may be delayed longer than three months and include surgery for stable heart disease,  slow growing brain tumours that are not affecting neurological capacity, hysterectomies and cleft palate surgery.

A spokeswoman for Forth Valley Royal hospital said that despite treating high numbers of seriously ill patients it had managed maintain the delivery of “a wide range of planned operations” but said this was kept under regular review.

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Fife’s health board said all urgent surgery was being carried out but some planned surgery had been postponed.

NHS Fife Deputy Chief Operating Officer, Andrew Mackay, said: “There continues to be significant pressures on our acute services, as there is across the entirety of the health and social care system in Fife. 

“Despite these unprecedented pressures, we are accommodating any urgent procedures and are continuing with as much of our elective programme as we can carry out safely.”

NHS Highland said 11 patients had been affected by surgical cancellations “so far”.

A spokesman added: “Rescheduling surgery is always a last resort as we know the disappointment this can cause, and we are very sorry to everyone this has affected. “