Waiting lists for urgent medical tests have spiralled to 2,500 people forcing health bosses to consider employing mobile units to cope with the demand.
At a health board meeting held this week, non-executive board member Pat Kilpatrick described the patient waiting list number as “quite worrying”.
In a bid to make sure patients waiting for urgent tests for cancer and other serious conditions are seen quickly, the health board is in talks with the Scottish Government to have a mobile endoscopy van brought to Ninewells Hospital in Dundee.
Board members were told the endoscopy team will handle half as many patients as they did before lockdown because rigorous new guidelines require areas to be decontaminated between each patient.
Speaking at the meeting Lorna Wiggan, chief officer of acute services at NHS Tayside, said: “For those patients who need to attend diagnostic MRI scans, CT scans and ultrasounds, there is a system in place to identify the most urgent patients.
“Endoscopies and colonoscopies are aerosol-generating services, so staff will need to wear PPE and there needs to be decontamination procedures.
“Because of this, they can only process half of the people they used to previously.
“But we will pick up urgent and cancer care patients, those people will always be prioritised.”
She added: “We are in correspondence with the Scottish Government to look at bringing a mobile endoscopy unit to Ninewells to increase accommodation and let us carry out further procedures.
“This will mean more procedures can take place while having the appropriate PPE, decontamination procedures and physical distancing in place.”
Ms Wiggan added the mobile endoscopy unit would come fully staffed, and said many hospital staff are currently working longer days to meet demand.
In addition, NHS Tayside will be bringing a mobile MRI unit to Perth Royal Infirmary on Monday, July 6, again to make sure urgent patients are seen quickly.
In response to Pat Kilpatrick’s concern, Hazel Scott, assistant chief executive of NHS Tayside, said the health board had been performing well for cancer waiting times.
She said: “There has been a significant improvement in cancer waiting times against the standard of 62 days.
“We were the first health board in Scotland for a good proportion of the year for this, and that needs to continue as we remobilise out of Covid-19.”