The latest figures from NHS Scotland show that nearly a quarter of operation cancellations at NHS Lothian last year were due to capacity issues.
The local health board’s figure of 24.3 per cent of operations cancelled due to capacity issues is below the national average of 25.1 per cent.
However, Jacquie Campbell, chief officer at NHS Lothian, admitted more can be done to reduce the number of cancelled operations.
She said: “We apologise to anyone who had their operation rescheduled. We know it can cause inconvenience for patients, and I would assure them that it is a decision that is never taken lightly.
“There are unavoidable circumstances which mean sometimes operations have to be rescheduled, including emergency admissions which obviously have to receive priority, be treated quickly, and cannot be planned for.
“Although we are performing better than the Scottish average, we recognise there is more to do.”
The figures drew criticism from Scottish Conservative health spokesman and Lothian List MSP Miles Briggs. He said: “In the past year almost a quarter of operations that were cancelled by NHS Lothian were due to capacity issues.
“Over the last 11 years SNP Ministers have mismanaged the workforce planning of our NHS to the extent that we now have a staffing crisis.
“Instead of trying to secure a second independence referendum, Sturgeon should be focussed on tackling the immediate problems in our health system that affect Scots every day.”
Responding to these comments, a Scottish Government spokesman said: “We’ve made clear to boards that patients with the greatest clinical need should not have their operations cancelled. Individual boards will always take decisions in response to local circumstances, and we have not sanctioned a blanket on elective admissions, unlike in England.
“Severe weather and warnings not to travel did mean many staff could not get to hospital, and this level of disruption takes hospitals time to recover from. Despite that, on average 820 operations a day took place and feedback from Boards has shown that the clear majority of cancellations for capacity or non-clinical reasons in March was due to the adverse weather.”