A rise in the number of winter Covid-19 cases has been blamed for a “worrying” surge in cancelled operations at the north-east’s largest hospital.
New figures from Public Health Scotland show 166 elective procedures due to take place in November were cancelled within NHS Grampian – an increase of more than 20 on the previous month and almost 60 since September.
The north-east health board also confirmed it has restricted operations at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary to “urgent cases only” as it attempts to cope with a rise in coronavrus cases and a fall in available beds.
NHS Highlands, Orkney and Shetland have also reported an increase in cancelled surgeries.
Axed operations across NHS Highlands were up 8.6%, whereas in Orkney they increased by 6.7% and in NHS Shetland by 5.6%.
A spokeswoman for NHS Grampian said: “We are seeing more people with Covid-19 requiring hospital care. This, combined with an increase in winter-related activity, means we are extremely busy.
“Regrettably this has led to the postponement of some elective procedures. Postponing procedures is a last resort for us and we are aware how disappointing this is for patients.
“As soon as we are able to reschedule procedures we will do so.”
The number of elective surgeries due to take place across Grampian and the Highlands and Islands has dropped dramatically in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, while operations across Scotland were also down in November by almost 40% below the number scheduled the previous year.
There were 17,916 planned operations in November 2020, down from 29,766 in November 2019 – a drop of 11,850 (39.8%).
This is also 1.2% below the 18,142 operations planned for October 2020.
North-east MSP Lewis Macdonald described the increase in cancellations as “worrying” and called for bed in community hospitals to be opened up “where they are not in use”.
He said: “The more patients there are admitted with Covid-19 the fewer operations will be done on time.
“It’s all the more important now that we minimise the amount of the virus in the community if people who have an urgent need for operations are going to get them when they need them.
“There is an argument that the more you are able to bring back beds in community hospitals the more scope there is for doing operations in hospital and getting people out of ARI and to a setting nearer home where they can still receive hospital care.”
Aberdeen MSP Kevin Stewart added: “The more the virus spreads, the more cases we see and the more pressure there is on our NHS that is why we must all play our part by sticking to the rules.
“NHS staff are out there on the front line every single day fighting this virus so let’s support them as best as we can as part of the national effort to curb the spread of coronavirus – stay at home, protect our NHS and save lives.”