NHS Grampian cannot afford the switch to a digital appointment system, the health board’s chief executive has admitted.
Caroline Hiscox said that while they would like to move to an electronic system, “financial constraints” made this impossible.
Such a system would allow appointments and potentially test results to be shared with patients by email or text message rather than by letter alone.
There are concerns patients could miss critical appointments because of delays in the postal system, according to North East MSP Liam Kerr.
He wants the Scottish Government to step in and introduce a standard system across the country before any problems start over Christmas.
NHS Grampian chief executive Ms Hiscox said that while a move to electronic communication by default could save money in the long term it would require a “substantial” transition cost.
Responding to a question from Mr Kerr, she said: “Given the overall financial constraints NHS Grampian is currently operating under we are not currently in a position to progress this project.
“It does remain our intention to do so and we will continue to monitor the national option and review our ability to commence the transition on a regular basis.”
Mr Kerr said patients were worried their health was being put at risk due to “poor and dated communication methods”.
He said: “It’s absolutely vital that the Scottish Government provides the funding to overhaul this system for NHS Grampian and other health boards across the country.
Fears Christmas postal delays could cause missed appointments
“With Christmas fast approaching resulting in postal services being substantially busier, I fear the lack of digital communication could result in appointments and test results being missed due to mail arriving late.
“The continued use of post is expensive and environmentally damaging, which makes it even more disgraceful that the SNP government hasn’t acted sooner – especially being in coalition with the Greens.”
He added: “There needs to be a one-for-all approach for Scottish health boards which NHS Grampian must be a part of but Scottish Government funding needs to be released to allow this to happen.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said there is a commitment to create a “digital front door” for members of the public to access services by the end of the current parliamentary term in 2026.
She said: “This will provide a way for people to access health and care information and control their data in a consistent and secure way.
“It will also help people to conduct more health and care transactions online, including communicating with their health and care providers and managing their appointments.”