Waiting Times

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 8 November 2023.

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Photo of Alexander Burnett Alexander Burnett Conservative

8. To ask the Scottish Government what progress it has made on eliminating long waiting times for national health service patients. (S6O-02695)

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

We are working closely with NHS boards to reduce long waits and to deliver the commitments in our £1 billion NHS recovery plan to increase in-patient, day-case and out-patient activity. In each of the next three years, we plan to provide NHS boards with £100 million to help to reduce in-patient and day-case waiting lists by an estimated 100,000 patients and to deliver year-on-year reductions. We will work closely with NHS boards and stakeholders on a number of key actions that will result in patients being treated as quickly as possible.

In addition, 2023 is a milestone year for the national treatment centre programme. NTC Fife and NTC Highland opened in the spring and, later this winter, NTC Forth Valley will open and the extension of NHS Golden Jubilee will be completed.

Photo of Alexander Burnett Alexander Burnett Conservative

Patients are waiting years for NHS treatment. One patient who lives in the NHS Grampian area has waited six years for surgery. Another constituent, who was hospitalised with gallstones in March 2020, is still waiting for his gall bladder to be removed. He is in significant pain, suffers regular attacks that result in hospitalisation and vomits for up to 12 hours at a time. He has had to take a significant amount of time off work, which has caused financial difficulty for his family.

The backlog is having devastating impacts on people across Scotland. In addition to what the cabinet secretary set out, what concrete plans does the Scottish Government have to ensure that health boards are able to reduce waiting lists and that my constituent will receive his operation?

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

I recognise the concern that the member has raised on behalf of his constituent. I deeply regret that someone has had to wait an extended period for treatment that they clearly require.

Decisions about priorities are for clinicians to make, but the member will recognise that a significant backlog of elective work has developed as a result of the pandemic. We can see the impact that the pandemic has had on healthcare systems not just in Scotland but across the United Kingdom and globally.

The member challenged me to set out the specific action that we are taking to address the issue. As I outlined, we will invest an additional £100 million in each of the next three years to ensure that there are sustained reductions in waiting lists across all specialty areas. We have made that a funding priority because we want to ensure that waiting times reduce for individuals such as the member’s constituent. That investment over the next three years will allow us to treat an extra 100,000 people through the NHS.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I have received requests for three supplementaries. If we have brief questions and answers, I will squeeze in all three.

Photo of Ivan McKee Ivan McKee Scottish National Party

Technology has a key role in increasing capacity to clear NHS waiting lists. How many NHS operations were carried out last year, and how many were carried out using robotic surgery? How does the Scottish Government plan to increase that number?

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

We have provided in the region of £20 million to support the introduction of robots, and we now have 16 in operation across NHS Scotland. Data provided by Public Health Scotland shows that, last year, there were 230,000 NHS operations and that, of those, some 3,180 were undertaken by robot-assisted surgery. We have 90 surgeons trained in a variety of techniques who are operating across the system to help to maximise the potential benefits for clinical outcomes for patients from new technologies such as robot-assisted surgery.

Photo of Beatrice Wishart Beatrice Wishart Liberal Democrat

For children who are on waiting lists for clinical operations, waiting for months can feel like years. What is the Scottish Government doing to reduce child waiting lists?

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

I recognise that a wait for anyone for an extended period is not acceptable, which is why we are investing an additional £100 million in each of the next three years to see sustained reductions in waiting lists across all specialties, including where children are waiting for procedures. That will allow us to increase the number of procedures by 100,000, and it will result in sustained reductions in waiting times across all the specialty groups.

Photo of Carol Mochan Carol Mochan Labour

I have been advised that reduced access to community health facilities and the increased pressure on and workload for community midwifery teams have led, in relation to in-person appointments in Ayrshire and Arran, to a situation in which

“many women do not ‘meet’ their named midwife until 22 weeks of pregnancy”.

That wait is far too long and is of significant concern.

Will the cabinet secretary outline how the Government is working with health boards to eliminate long waits for pregnant women who are looking to meet their named midwife in person? Has the Government explored asking health boards to formally record the length of those waits per case?

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

I do not want expectant mothers to wait unduly long periods to meet their named midwife. If there are specific issues in Ayrshire and Arran that the member wants to provide me with the details of, I will be more than happy to look into that and to try to identify where actions can be taken to address the concerns that she has raised.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I have a late entrant—Craig Hoy has a supplementary question.

Photo of Craig Hoy Craig Hoy Conservative

In September, only six in 10 accident and emergency patients in NHS Lothian were seen within four hours. What does the cabinet secretary have to say to the four in 10 patients who are often waiting in pain for many hours or for more than a day? Surely it has to be more than sorry.

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

It is more than sorry. It is about the actions that we are taking to address the issues. As I mentioned earlier—I am sure that the member was here for the earlier part of portfolio questions—we are expanding hospital at home, with an extra £12 million being invested in that, on top of the £3.6 million that we announced earlier this year, to see an even more rapid expansion of the service. We are also providing an extra £50 million to the Scottish Ambulance Service to increase its capacity to see and treat, as part of our winter resilience programme.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

That concludes portfolio questions on NHS recovery, health and social care. There will be a short pause to allow front-bench teams to change position, should they wish to do so.