PATIENTS waiting for hip and knee replacements in Highland face further delays after an announcement that all routine orthopaedic surgery will be suspended until February.
In a statement tonight, NHS Highland said it was under “significant pressure” as a result of emergency admissions, and had taken the “difficult decision” to pause orthopaedic work to “free up” beds.
The suspension is in place for the rest of December and January, with patients advised to contact a phone helpline for advice.
Katherine Sutton, Chief Officer for Acute Services, said: “Within acute services we have had to act to relieve some of this pressure, both immediately and with rapid but sustainable measures to improve the situation.
“Our immediate action must focus on the safety of the patients in the hospital and has therefore led to a pause in elective orthopaedic activity for patients who require an inpatient bed as part of their care.
“This is a very difficult decision which has not been taken lightly. We know it will be extremely disappointing to patients who have been waiting too long for their operations, often in pain, and to our colleagues in orthopaedics who are determined to help their patients.”
The statement added that rising Covid cases due to the Omicron variant is also expected to have a “significant impact on the provision of elective services across the NHS and lead to further delays”.
There are currently 22 Covid patients in hospital across the Highland region, but fewer than five are in intensive care.
Mrs Sutton added: “We know that GP colleagues will also be concerned about the impact on their patients.
“We are working rapidly to stabilise this situation and wish to apologise to all patients who have been affected by this recent decision to pause our elective orthopaedic operations.
“We hope to reinstate orthopaedic operating as soon as it is safe to do so and will keep the situation under continuous review.
“All patients are being contacted to advise them of the rescheduling of their operations. We will of course work closely with our colleagues in primary care to offer these patients additional support during this difficult period, especially as some of them may start experiencing worsening of their symptoms.”
NHS Highland said orthopaedic patients could contact a free helpline on 0800 0280492 between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday.