Health Secretary Shona Robison has acknowledged failings at NHS Grampian on treatment times for chronic pain patients and said that action is now being taken to improve performance.
Details were provided in a written response to Scottish Conservative MSP Tom Mason, who raised the issue with Nicola Sturgeon at First Minister’s Questions in January.
Mr Mason, a north-east regional MSP, pointed out that quarterly figures had shown that, of 536 referrals to a pain clinic in Grampian, just 51 were seen for their first appointment within the 18-week target time period.
In her letter, Ms Robison said that the waiting time for an appointment is currently 40 weeks.
She added that the delays at NHS Grampian were due to staff shortages and that additional clinics were planned to try and improve performance.
The health board has the second worst waiting times for pain clinics of any area in Scotland.
NHS Grampian was recently given £4.9million by the Scottish Government to reduce waits in several areas, but it has been reported that just £35,000 of that on chronic pain. The health board has said because the funding is not recurring, it can only be spent on temporary measures, such as locums.
Mr Mason said: “I am pleased at least that the SNP government has acknowledged that there is a serious problem at NHS Grampian in this area.
“The staffing problems experienced by the local health board are well-documented, but that will provide little comfort to those who are waiting to be seen.
“Many of the patients forced to wait up to 40 weeks or more will be in severe pain and discomfort.
“It seems that additional funding provided by the government will just be swallowed up in locum costs.
“Additional clinics that are planned should help to improve the waiting times, and should be welcomed.”