The SNP are letting NHS Grampian patients “fall between the gaps” during a treatment times crisis, according to a local MSP.
The health board’s latest performance figures showed only 65.4% of patients were treated within 18 weeks in the third quarter of 2019 – against a legal minimum of 90%.
At Holyrood this week East region MSP Peter Chapman was told that boards such as Grampian should be “in constant touch” with patients as to why treatments are cancelled or delayed.
Scottish Conservative Mr Chapman said this is an extra burden considering the lack of resources available to NHS Grampian, and the reduction in GP surgeries across the region over the last decade.
He told MSPs: “When it comes to NHS Grampian, long waiting times is a familiar story.
“And in the north east we fall far below the national average.
“An NHS Grampian spokesperson stated that if a patient’s condition worsens, they should contact their GP. However, recent GP figures show that Grampian has lost 13 GP surgeries in the last ten years, with longer waiting times at an increasing number of GP surgeries.
“Can the cabinet secretary explain how patients are able to get the vital treatment that they need?”
Cabinet secretary Jeane Freeman told him: “I expect boards to be in constant touch with patients on their waiting lists, keeping them updated … explaining to them why there are delays.”
Following the publication of the ISD statistics on waiting times last month, Grampian health board commented GPs should be the first port of call when conditions deteriorate.
Later, Mr Chapman said that patients are “falling between the gaps” because the SNP expect NHS Grampian to update patients while the board has advised GP visits for those whose condition worsen while they wait.
He said: “Ms Freeman’s words are putting an unrealistic expectation in place, both of NHS Grampian and on the behalf of patients.
“People who are waiting too long to be seen are falling between the gaps and don’t know who to reach out to.
“The only real solution to their problems is cutting waiting times, investing in Scotland’s NHS and reversing the downward trend of Grampian waiting times.”