The truth about why NHS Scotland is cancelling operations.


Cancelled NHS Scotland operations were in the news yesterday – there have been around three thousand cancelations this year. Whilst this makes a change from reports of A&E waiting times targets being missed, the two issues are related. Both are linked to “delayed discharge” (AKA bed blocking).

Delayed discharge is where a patient is judged clinically ready to go home but continues to occupy a hospital bed while plans are made for appropriate follow-up care. These plans can be complex, but can also be as trivial as fitting a handrail on someone’s bath at home. At any one time hundreds of patients can be waiting weeks for discharge. This is bad for them and bad for the NHS.

To be fair to the SNP’s Health Secretary, Shona Robison, she said cutting the number of people stuck in hospital waiting for a care package to be arranged is an “absolute key priority” for the Scottish government. Indeed, she committed £100m to solving the problem (a few months earlier £5m was enough). On the 25th of February in a BBC interview she said:

“I want over the course of this year to eradicate delayed discharge out of the system and I am absolutely determined to do that.”

Indeed, the seriousness of the issue led to Ms Robison invoking Nicola Sturgeon’s name a few weeks earlier:

“In presenting the Government’s programme for the year ahead, the First Minister made it clear that addressing delayed discharge is one of our key priorities and it is one to which I give my personal commitment.”

There we have it. With the support of Scotland’s First Minister and £100m in her pocket, Shona Robison gave a “personal commitment” to “eradicate delayed discharge” by the end of this year. How did she do?

Of course the year is not over yet and we will not have data for some time, but the situation up to October  was pretty poor. The official assessment:

“In October 2015, there were 50,945 days spent in hospital associated with delays in discharge. This is a 6% increase from September and a 9% decrease on the same period last year. “

bed blockers 

So whilst the SNP’s apologists may want to suggest that cancelled operations can be attributed to “acts of god”, alert readers will perhaps argue that the SNP could be doing more to deal with the delayed discharge of patients.








4 thoughts on “The truth about why NHS Scotland is cancelling operations.

  1. Stewart Dredge says:

    By Scott’s own admission, the October 2015 figure is a 9% decrease on the same period last year. That is surely indicative of an improving situation generally. The report also notes another improvement: 1,294 patients were delayed at the November 2015 census. This is a 4% decrease on November 2014. So, an improving picture which Scott has managed to spin into an SNPBAD article.


  2. Stewart Dredge says:

    Of course, there were 179,527 planned elective operations in NHS Scotland over the six-month period covered in the above study. Of these, 2,779 were postponed for “capacity or non-clinical reasons” meaning things like cancellations due to patient instructions, staff illness etc were taken out the equation. That means that 98.5% went ahead on schedule or were postponed or cancelled through no fault of the hospital. This is a huge improvement on when Labour was in power at a time when there were far fewer operations!
    By the way, earlier this year the Herald’s Dan Sanderson was reporting that 30 patients per day were having their operations “cancelled” (really postponed) so that figure appears to have halved, another SNP success story it seems!
    This tiresome misuse of statistics is becoming Scott Arthur’s trademark. Hospital patients and their worried families deserve a more honest and adult debate on how NHS Scotland caters for our needs. Scott’s childish discourse insults us all.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s