NHS Scotland approaches perfect efficiency as cancelled operations due to capacity reasons plummet close to zero!


Against a background of dramatic increases in demand, NHS Scotland only had to cancel 1.7% of operations due to the unavailability of staff or theatres. Demand was up 2% on the same period in 2018. This is astonishing in the circumstances and cannot be bettered. To have zero operations cancelled for this reason would by definition require over-staffing and over-resourcing to enable coping with inevitably fluctuating demand. You can imagine the headlines:

‘Miles Briggs accuses SNP of wasting tax-payers money on idle surgeons and empty operating theatres!’

As for the cancellations by the patient or for clinical reasons, these are good signs showing that patients feel they can cancel if they are unsure or afraid in some way and that surgeons feel free to cancel when they learn of new information telling them that to proceed might be harmful for the patient.



11 thoughts on “NHS Scotland approaches perfect efficiency as cancelled operations due to capacity reasons plummet close to zero!

  1. Alasdair Macdonald May 7, 2019 / 11:37 am

    Yet more excellent contextual data. Thanks, again.

    There are a couple of inferences that might be drawn from the data:
    Firstly, the trend lines for the four categories illustrated are generally, level, or, indeed, showing a gradual decrease.
    Secondly, the decrease is probably clearest for patient cancellations.
    Thirdly, there are four sharp peaks, which occurred during winter periods.

    With regard to patient cancellations, going by my own recent experiences, it is normal now to get text reminders several days before appointments (this applies to dental appointments and eye tests, too.) I imagine that this results in fewer missed appointments (or are these under ‘other’?) and, possibly means that some patients are prompted to cancel in advance, if something unforeseen comes up, which means they would have to miss the appointment. In some cases, such as routine cataract surgery, such ‘spaces’ can be filled at very short notice, and waiting lists reduced. The ethos now is very much that patients and practitioners are partners in dealing with the patient’s condition and, I think that this encourages a more disciplined and responsible approach amongst most patients. I think this leads to things being dealt with more efficiently.

    The percentages for cancellations are actually very small and so, by this improved partnership approach, the increased demand is being coped with by the system and thus we get the positive result which you are, rightly, lauding.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Donald McGregor May 7, 2019 / 4:16 pm

    Nice. I look forward to the positive headlines.

    Meanwhile the BBC continues on its relentless vengeance quest by noting that the SNP change of heart was as a result of an (unspecified) ‘environmental backlash’.

    Wouldn’t it be nice to have reported that the SNP policy had changed ‘in support of the Scottish Governments declared climate emergency’?

    Nah. Thought not.


    • Donald McGregor May 7, 2019 / 4:18 pm

      Hmm – change of heart re ADT. Duh.


  3. Ludo Thierry May 7, 2019 / 4:20 pm

    The SNP Scottish Govt also ‘doing that day job thing’ with regard to Policing numbers – 1000 ‘extra’ Police Officers promised and delivered when first entering office in 2007 – and 1000+ ‘extra’ Police Officers still on the beat in 2019 – link and snippets from news.gov.scot site below:


    Scotland’s Chief Statistician today published statistics on Police Officer Quarterly Strength, which gives the number of full-time equivalent police officers employed by Police Scotland.

    The key findings of the statistics are:
    • There were 17,251 full-time equivalent (FTE) police officers in Scotland on 31 March 2019
    • Police officer numbers have increased by 77 FTE officers (+0.4%) in the last quarter from 31 December 2018
    • Police officer numbers have increased by 81 FTE officers (+0.5%) in the last year from 31 March 2018
    • This is an increase of 1,017 FTE police officers (+6.3%) from the 16,234 FTE police officers recorded at 31 March 2007

    Read and weep Col. Davidson.


  4. Ludo Thierry May 7, 2019 / 4:35 pm

    Also from news.gov.scot site today – New community funding made available by SNP Scottish Govt to bolster investment in local projects in local communities – link and snippets below:


    New £11.5 million fund open for applications.

    Community groups and projects can now apply to the new £11.5 million Investing in Communities Fund to tackle disadvantage, poverty and inequality.

    The fund encourages community-led development, design and delivery of sustainable local solutions addressing local issues, circumstances and aspirations – such as supporting out-of-school provision, providing activities and workshops, creating a community café and improving job opportunities.

    Grants of up to £250,000 are available over three years providing stability and recognising the need for longer term planning in some projects.

    SNP Scottish Govt doing the Day Job again – and what’s worse is that they’re doing it ‘deliberately’!


  5. Jim Coll May 7, 2019 / 4:35 pm

    Another aspect regarding patient cancellations. I live as far north as is possible without swimming. My grandson had an appointment with a Specialist in Inverness. We set off on a day of snow and we got there, on time, and my grandson now hears much better. Thanks Scottish NHS. While waiting I overheard a receptionist take a call from someone near Tain cancelling because of the snowy conditions. Tain is closer than Caithness to Inverness, however, roads around Tain can be difficult and might unnerve some drivers. Safer not to travel and risk becoming an accident statistic I think. A category that just reads ‘cancellations’, without reasons attached is less than helpful.


  6. Ludo Thierry May 7, 2019 / 5:10 pm

    More good news – this time regarding 80% reduction in smoking related air pollution in Scotland’s prisons following smoking ban and access to FREE e-ciggy kits to prisoners who needed them (previously 72% were smoking ciggies). Link and snippets below:

    Second-hand smoke levels fell by 80% inside Scotland’s jails in the week after a smoking ban was introduced, research has found.

    Scientists said the air quality improved despite fears that prisoners would stockpile cigarettes before the ban last November.

    The study by researchers at the University of Stirling compared smoke levels to measurements taken in 2016.

    It showed improvements in all 15 jails across the country.

    Dr Sean Semple’s team collected more than 110,000 minutes of second-hand smoke measurements.

    He said: “Our study shows improvements in the levels of second-hand smoke in every prison in Scotland, with an average fall of 81%.

    “This is similar to the scale of change observed when pubs became smoke-free in 2006 – and the concentrations of fine particles in prison air has now reduced to levels similar to those measured in outdoor air in Scotland.

    It was estimated about 72% of Scottish prisoners smoked regularly before the ban was introduced.

    Vaping is still allowed and the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) has offered e-cigarette kits free of charge to prisoners who want them.

    A Scottish Prison Service spokesman said “All Scottish prisons went smoke-free on November 30 2018, and there have been no significant incidents as a result.

    “This amazing achievement is a testament to the contribution made by all of our staff, especially those on the front line, and the cooperation of those in our care.”

    Debbie Sigerson, organisational lead for tobacco in NHS Health Scotland, said it was hoped the ban would improve health of people who live and work in prisons.

    She added: “We are delighted that the results from this study… shows that one factor that impacts on that harm – exposure to second-hand smoke – has significantly reduced.


  7. Tom Crozier May 8, 2019 / 4:31 pm

    Repeating myself, I know, John; but still think it much better to refer simply to the Scottish Health Service where ever possible to emphasise that here we are nothing to do with the English NHS


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