As part of what is in the Scottish Government’s “Waiting Times Improvement Plan” we are making more than £108 million available to health boards in this financial year in order to increase capacity in the system through, for example, more staffing, evening and weekend clinics and additional theatre sessions, all of which will ensure progress towards delivering on that plan’s trajectories. That investment includes over £11 million to NHS Grampian where, using those additional funds, recent improvements have been put in place, including increasing capacity at Aberdeen royal infirmary, recruitment of additional staff, and utilising additional capacity at the Stracathro regional treatment centre and the Golden Jubilee hospital for orthopaedic patients.
Sadly, long waiting times are a familiar story in
NHS Grampian, and in the north-east we fall far below the national average. On the back of the news on waiting times, an NHS Grampian spokesperson stated that if a patient’s condition worsened, they should contact their general practitioner. However, recent GP figures show that Grampian has lost 13 GP surgeries in the past 10 years. With longer waiting times and a decreasing number of GP surgeries, can the cabinet secretary explain how patients can get the vital treatment that they need?
On elective work and the initiation of the cancer waiting time, it is fair to point out that NHS Grampian has, for the second year, met the 31-day cancer waiting time target for the second quarter, and is seeing improvement towards reaching the 62-day target.
For most patients, the trigger for referral comes from their GP surgery, so I can in some ways understand why the piece of advice from NHS Grampian that Peter Chapman referred to might have been given to a particular patient.
However, I expect health boards to be in constant touch with the patients on their waiting lists in order to keep them updated on when they should expect their appointments and, if there are delays, to explain why. If Mr Chapman is aware of particular instances in which that has not happened, I will be happy to hear about them so that I can deal with them directly with NHS Grampian, as I have done with other health boards.