Routine operations are to be halted for three weeks over the festive period by under-pressure NHS Tayside.
Elective surgery will not take place at Dundee’s Ninewells, Stracathro Hospital in Angus or Perth Royal Infirmary from December 18 to January 8 in what health chiefs have said is a move aimed at countering the expected traditional upturn in unplanned admissions and resultant cancellations.
They say the situation is not a staffing issue, but the decision has been branded a “slippery slope” by an MSP who has said it is unfair on patients already waiting well beyond target times to go under the knife.
Stracathro has previously been the subject of the festive step-down, but NHS Tayside has confirmed the elective surgery suspension will be put in place across the region for the first time.
A spokesman said: “Every winter, NHS Tayside experiences an increase in unplanned admissions which has meant the step-down at short notice of planned treatments. Patients are also more likely to choose not to come in over the festive time.
“Therefore, our annual winter plan includes a three-week step-down of non-urgent, elective procedures. Emergency surgery, urgent procedures and all cancer surgeries will be unaffected and will take place as normal.”
North East region MSP Bill Bowman said: “Some patients are waiting up to nine months for routine surgery, against a target of 12 weeks. Lists which are already too long will get longer.
“I call on Shona Robison to get a handle on this before seasonal closure of routine operations becomes an expectation across our hospitals.”