Patients forced to wait more than a month for treatment after cancelled operations

Patients are being forced to wait more than a month for treatment after cancelled operations.
Patients are being forced to wait more than a month for treatment after cancelled operations.

Patients whose operations are cancelled at the last minute by the York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust are increasingly having to wait longer than a month for them to be rescheduled.

The Royal College of Surgeons has blamed pressure on the over-stretched NHS for the long waits faced across England, saying it is unlikely there will be a reduction in cancelled operations any time soon.

The data from the NHS covers cancellations for non-clinical reasons, such as bed or staff shortages.

NHS rules say non-urgent operations, such as hip or knee procedures, that are cancelled at the last minute should be rescheduled within 28 days.

However, of the 141 patients who had their surgery cancelled by the York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in the three months to September, 6% were not treated within this target.

This was a significant increase on the same period last year, when only 1% of patients weren’t treated within 28 days.

According to Professor Cliff Shearman, vice president of the RCS, patients are likely to suffer from anxiety if their procedures are cancelled.

He said: “It is distressing to have an operation cancelled at the last minute and any delay in treatment could mean a patient’s condition deteriorates.

“These figures do not bode well for the winter months ahead, when hospitals traditionally see an increase in pressure.”

Professor Shearman also warned that the figures could be disguising the true scale of cancellations, as they do not include those 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.

If a trust is unable to reschedule the operation within 28 days, it must instead fund the treatment in another hospital.

It also forfeits its payment from the NHS Clinical Commissioning Group, which funds healthcare in the area.

There were 18,460 last minute cancellations across England in the three months to September.

Of these, 8.3% of patients did not have their operations rescheduled within 28 days.

This rate is higher than the same period a year ago, when it was 6.8%.

Sarah Scobie, deputy director of research at the Nuffield Trust, said: “Sadly, this is not a surprise. Although these numbers are small, this is yet another sign of how difficult the NHS is currently finding it to provide as much planned care as people need.

“Last month, we saw waiting times reach their worst level in nearly a decade.”

A spokesman for NHS England 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.”