A SHANDON man suffering agonising back pain was forced to fork out £8,600 for a private operation after waiting months for treatment on the NHS, writes David Carnduff.

Alexander Hutton, who found a simple task like walking to his kitchen to make a cup of coffee “absolute agony”, was forced to seek a cure at a private hospital in Glasgow when the NHS admitted he could be waiting up to 40 weeks for an operation.

Alexander’s case was one of nine raised in the Scottish Parliament by Jackie Baillie MSP who was speaking during a debate on a “damning” Audit Scotland report on the state of the NHS.

The watchdog’s annual report listed concerns over missed targets, longer waiting times, “stalled” improvements and growing pressure on budgets.

During the debate, Ms Baillie read out the names of nine local constituents who had been forced to wait months for orthopaedic surgery.

This week, Alexander told the Advertiser he was glad the MSP had used his case to stress the need for improvements.

As we reported previously, Alexander initially received a letter telling him his operation would take place within 12 weeks. But when he phoned for an update, he was told the waiting list was 40 weeks and even then there was no guarantee.

He said: “It was then I decided to approach the Nuffield Hospital in Glasgow because of my spinal stenosis which caused trapped nerves.”

The 77-year-old businessman blames NHS bureaucracy for “disguising huge skills shortages within the health service”. And he says the NHS admitted to him they knew there was no chance of him being seen within 12 weeks when they sent him his initial letter.

The MSP told parliament the nine patients whose cases she highlighted were only “the tip of the iceberg” and their stories illustrated the real human suffering behind the statistics.

She said: “Under the so-called Treatment Time Guarantee, patients are promised that they will receive treatment within 12 weeks but nearly 4,000 patients in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde are waiting longer.”

She said a GP medical practice in the Vale of Leven had also contacted her to express concerns about waiting times for emergency breast cancer referrals.

She also raised the review of GP out-of-hours which, she said, is considering cuts to services at the Vale of Leven Hospital. She told MSPs that the health board “is ploughing ahead with the review without consulting patients despite the health secretary’s promises of ‘extensive engagement with the community’.”

In response, a Scottish Government spokesman said the Audit Scotland report included many positives on the NHS in Scotland, such as the innovative work being done to tackle delayed discharge, integrate health and social care and embed realistic medicine.

The spokesman added: “In particular, the report highlighted patient satisfaction at an all-time high, with 90 per cent of in-patients reporting positive experiences during treatment.

“We are committed to improving waiting time performances and offering high-quality out of hours services which meet patient needs. Since our waiting time guarantee was introduced, 400,000 people in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (97.9 per cent) have been treated within the 12 week period. A further £11.2 million (out of a total £50 million made available to all boards) has been provided to NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde to help reduce waiting times between now and March 2018.

“In 2016, we invested £10 million in high-quality out of hours services and are providing further investment as part of the £23 million Primary Care Transformation Fund this year.”