Huge surge in cancelled operations blamed on '˜enormous' NHS pressure
There has been a huge surge in the number of operations being cancelled at the last minute at the York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.
The trust cancelled 196 non-urgent operations, such as hip or knee surgeries, in the three months to June, the latest period covered by NHS England data.
This was an increase of 27% from the same period in 2017, when there were 154 last minute cancellations.
The data covers cancellations that were due to non-clinical reasons, such as bed or staff shortages.
The Royal College of Surgeons has blamed “enormous pressure” on the NHS for the increasing number of cancellations in England.
It also warned the figures could be masking the true scale of the problem, as they do not include operations cancelled at more than 24 hours notice.
A last-minute cancellation is defined as being either on the day that a patient was due to arrive, after the patient has arrived, or on the day of the operation itself.
Professor Cliff Shearman, vice president of the RCS, said: “Having an operation that has been planned for months cancelled at short notice can be very stressful for patients and their families.
“Alongside practical considerations such as wasted time off work and rescheduling the surgery, patients will have to deal with the mental anguish of preparing for surgery all over again.
“They will also have to endure waiting longer in pain and discomfort, possibly unable to work or complete day-to-day tasks for themselves. In some cases, their condition may worsen.”
According to the NHS Constitution, the trust must offer a new date within a maximum period of 28 days after a non-urgent operation, such as hip or knee surgeries, has been cancelled.
If it is unable to do so, it must instead fund the treatment with another hospital and forfeit its payment from the NHS Clinical Commissioning Group that funds healthcare in the area.
However, 8% of patients at the York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust were not treated within this 28 day timeframe between April and June.This Is an increase on the previous year, when 2% of patients weren’t treated within 28 days.
There were 18,806 last minute cancellations across England in the three months to June.
Of these, 11% of patients did not have their operations rescheduled within 28 days.
This rate is the second highest it has been since 2005, surpassed only in the preceding three months between January and March of this year, when it reached 12%.
“This will undoubtedly be down to the enormous pressures the NHS is facing”, Professor Shearman said.
“These include not enough free beds in hospitals, difficulties tackling the backlog of operations that built-up over the winter, and now coping with a very busy summer thanks to record temperatures.”
An NHS England spokesman said: “Only a small minority of operations are cancelled on the day, while 15,000 fewer people now wait a year for their operation compared with 2010.
“New guidance issued to trusts recently will see local health service leaders allocate extra funding to community services, like district nursing teams and outreach clinics, to help them care for more patients, freeing up hospital beds and staff to reduce surgery waiting lists.”