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NHS Highland admits 'performance has continued to deteriorate' amid waiting times crisis with the board saying legacy issues largely due to the impact of Covid are to blame while it has sought extra funding from the Scottish Government

By Scott Maclennan

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Raigmore Hospital.
Raigmore Hospital.

In a frank outline of where NHS Highland stands in the ongoing waiting times crisis the board has admitted that “performance has continued to deteriorate” largely due to the impact of Covid.

Later today at a full board meeting, the wide-ranging Integrated Performance and Quality Report will be considered, which discusses waiting times and challenges right across NHS Highland.

Indicative of the pressures that the board is under in delivering healthcare as it desperately tries to claw back the ground it lost over the Covid shut down, are the figures associated with the 12-week targets.

Stating the objective as being – “our population will wait no longer than 12 weeks for inpatient or day case treatment” just 58.4 per cent of NHS Highland patients were seen within that timescale – the Scottish average is 51 per cent.

It goes on to show that the number of completed waits stands at 616 while the ongoing waits are more than 10 times bigger at 7294 – despite major improvements compared to April 2021 when those waiting hit 70 per cent.

Going by speciality, a total of 2476 people were waiting longer than 12 weeks for trauma and orthopaedics. Next worse was ear, nose and throat at 704, followed by general surgery (upper gastrointestinal).

And less than half of patients got a first outpatient appointment within the 12-week target – in all just 45.9 per cent, which was worse than the Scottish average of 46.5.

Katherine Sutton, chief officer acute, said the situation is serious enough for a special board to have been set up, which has already applied for more funding to head off the crisis.

“Performance has continued to deteriorate as a result of pressures due to Covid and also system pressures which have significantly impacted available nursing, bed and theatre capacity,” she said.

“Remobilisation plans have been developed to increase activity levels towards 2019 pre-pandemic operating levels as soon as system pressures, due to the latest wave of the pandemic, subside.

“A Scheduled Care Performance Recovery Board has been established and initial proposals are currently with the Scottish Government for consideration in relation to securing financial capacity to support an increase in activity and investment to support transformation.

“These plans will ensure transformational opportunities are embedded to deliver improved efficient utilisation of the limited clinical capacity available and sustainable delivery in the long term.”

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