A HIGHER percentage of operations were cancelled at Borders General Hospital than anywhere else in Scotland during December.

And politicians are demanding an improvement.

During the final month of 2018, 62 of the planned 359 (17.3 per cent) operations didn't take place.

A total of 19 of the cancellations were either made by patients for various reasons or were down to a shortage of staff or equipment.

And a further 43 were due to capacity reasons - mainly bed blocking.

Local MP John Lamont has hit out at the figures.

He told us: "Everyone appreciates the winter months are the toughest for health boards to deal with.

"But even so, for one in six patients to be told they can’t have their operation is nothing short of dreadful.

"I’ve repeatedly raised this issue and cancellations have troubled NHS Borders for a while now.

"I know that staff are acutely aware of the problems cancelled operations cause.

"They are being let down by an SNP Government who are failing rural health boards.

"We need to look again at whether health boards with large rural populations like NHS Borders are being sufficiently supported.”

Although bed blocking due to winter pressures was responsible most of the 17.3 per cent cancellation rate during December, Labour MSP Colin Smyth believes financial pressures are also playing their part.

He sited the 245 cancellations within the NHS Borders area during 2017 for clinical reasons, which include a shortage of staff as well as a lack of equipment or resources.

The South of Scotland MSP told us: "The pressure that staff are under in our NHS is huge and unfortunately so long as there aren’t enough resources being invested, this pressure will simply keep growing.

"Staff are doing an incredible job but they need more support and resources from the Scottish Government to minimise the number of operations that are being cancelled.

"Over 240 operations were cancelled in the Scottish Borders region over the past year because local hospitals couldn’t cope and that should set the alarm bells ringing in the Government.

"Many of these cases will have left patients living in further pain until they finally get the operation they need, and that can have knock on effects for their work, family and mental health."

NHS Borders bosses admit the cancellation rates during December were disappointing.

And they revealed the problems with bed blocking have continued through January.

Dr Cliff Sharp told us: "Of the 62 cancelled operations 19 were either at the patient’s request or for a clinical reason.

"This means that one person in every eight who we had planned to see had their procedure deferred for non-clinical or capacity reasons – mainly because of bed availability as a result of the pressures the system was under.

“While this is not where we would want to be in terms of seeing people, we appreciate how important operations are and how disappointed those who we weren't able to see will be.

"There were numerous winter pressures being absorbed by the Borders General Hospital during December and this has continued into January.”