PATIENTS waiting for hip and knee replacements in Ayrshire are facing delays and cancellations to their operations after the loss of two orthopaedic surgeons.

Irvine surgeon Dr Graeme Holt, a consultant orthopaedic and trauma surgeon at Crosshouse Hospital, has been suspended pending trial in March for alleged domestic assault and threatening behaviour.

Dr Holt, 43, from Irvine, specialises in hip, knee and foot surgery, and is also the chairman of the Scottish Hip Fracture Advisory Group, which audits the quality of care annually across all of Scotland’s acute hospitals.

It is understood that he was suspended in January and is due to go on trial at Kilmarnock Sheriff Court on March 2, following a preliminary hearing earlier this month.

The orthopaedics service at Crosshouse has also been plunged into crisis following the early retirement of one of the health board’s most experienced orthopaedic surgeons, Dr Amanullah Khan, who has stepped down to set up a new orthopaedics service in Pakistan.

Crosshouse is already failing to meet waiting times targets for hip and knee surgeries, and the health board said the posts will be filled by locum doctors until long-term replacements can be recruited.

Patients whose operations need to be rescheduled are being contacted.

A source said doctors on the ground are already under pressure and worried about the impact the latest developments will have on workload and patient care.

They said it was likely the health board will have to send patients to the private sector to clear waiting lists.

They added: “We know that Ayr won’t take them because they haven’t in the past - they don’t have the capacity and actually, I don’t think they’re very keen to take on extra patients.

“The health board is already under pressure over the difference in waiting times for North and South Ayrshire. The wheels are shaky if not coming off.”

Patients in North Ayrshire are referred to Crosshouse for hip and knee replacements, while those in the south go to University Hospital Ayr for the procedures.

Figures leaked to our sister paper, the Herald last year revealed that those treated at Crosshouse over the previous three years had waited an average of 143 days - around five months - for a hip replacement, and 153 days for a knee replacement, in breach of the Scottish Government’s 12-week (84 day) Treatment Time Guarantee.

At Ayr, the average wait for both operations was 82 days.