HEALTH officials have announced £17million worth of investment in a bid to reduce waiting times at Forth Valley Royal Hospital.

Two new operating theatres will be opened in the next year to focus on general and orthopaedic surgery. This will enable around 1,500 extra joint replacement operations to be carried out each year.

In addition, a new MRI scanner, the second to be purchased for the hospital, will deliver around 8,000 additional scans each year.

The additional Scottish Government funding, which forms part of a new National Waiting Times Improvement Plan published today, includes £7m for capital costs and a recurring £10m for staffing and supplies.

Extra operating lists will run in the hospital's existing 14 theatres, including extended sessions over weekends, enabling hundreds of extra operations to be performed.

A new 32-bed ward will also be established for patients who need inpatient care fallowing surgery.

NHS Forth Valley will also enter into a partnership with the Golden Jubilee National Hospital to improve the training and recruitment of clinical staff across both sites.

Jeane Freeman, health secretary, visited Forth Valley Royal Hospital to meet staff last week.

She said: "This is a significant investment in the facilities at Forth Valley Royal Hospital, and one that will bring substantial benefit for years to come.

"The extra capacity and new MRI scanner will reduce waiting times for both procedures and diagnostic tests, meaning better outcomes for patients.

"While investment is important, it's also vital that we improve the way the health and social care system operates.

"The partnership between NHS Forth Valley and the Golden Jubilee is a good example of the kind of innovative collaboration we want to see."