NHS cancels more than 100,000 operations in a year
The Department of Health announced that just over 57,000 operations had been cancelled. However, these figures only cover cancellations made in the 24 hours before an operation.
The number of cancelled operations is almost twice as high as previously admitted by the labour Government with thousands of patients suffering from multiple cancellations.
Ministers have previously said that cancelling operations is “unacceptable” yet have failed to act to prevent hospitals from cancelling procedures, often just hours before surgery is due to take place.
The figures have been obtained by the Conservatives who used Freedom of Information laws to request the data from NHS trusts.
Andrew Lansley, the Shadow Health Secretary, said: “Having an operation cancelled can cause huge distress for patients and their families. It’s simply unacceptable that these figures are so high.
“The labour Government are directly to blame for these problems. NHS staff are doing the best they can but how can they plan patients’ care properly when they are continually hampered by Labour’s top-down targets? Labour’s boom and bust approach to the NHS finances has made things even worse, with bed shortages and staffing shortages in far too many trusts.”
The Conservatives claim that Kingston Hospital, York Hospitals and Sussex University Hospitals are among the most prolific cancellers of operations. Only one trust, the Clatterbridge Centre for Oncology said it had not cancelled any operations.
In total, more than 7,000 patients had their operation cancelled more than once. A third of trusts cancelled an operation for the same patient at least three times.
The Conservatives’ analysis reveals that the most popular reason cited for cancelling an operation was “problems with theatre bookings”. Thousands of operations were also cancelled because of bed shortages, administrative problems and staffing shortages.
The figures show that the scale of the problem is far larger than previously disclosed by the Government. Last year, the Department of Health announced that just over 57,000 operations had been cancelled. However, these figures only cover cancellations made in the 24 hours before an operation is due to take place
When hospitals were asked to reveal all cancelled operations, the figures were almost twice as high prompting allegations from the Conservatives that ministers were “spinning the statistics”.
131 of the country’s 171 NHS trusts responded to the Tories’ request for information. The trusts which responded said they had cancelled a total of 77,302 operations which, if extrapolated to include all hospitals, means that about 105,000 operations were cancelled nationally last year.
Shortly before the last election, Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister, said that it was “unacceptable” for operations to be cancelled.
A spokeswoman for the Patients Association said: “Everyone understands that in an emergency, a patient may not have the operation they need because the clinical priorities of another must take priority. The examples in this survey, however, reveal a situation where patients and their families are subject to an increasingly cavalier standard of care in which the NHS is not putting patients first.
“Patients, and taxpayers, expect better management of their NHS than this. The NHS only gets away with it because ultimately its patients cannot go elsewhere. When you know your customer doesn’t have a choice, such standards prevail.”
A spokesman for the Department of Health defended the Government and said it only collected figures for late cancellations as these were of most concern to patients.