Hospitals cancelled record number of urgent operations last year

Hospitals cancelled a record number of urgent operations last year as bed shortages left them struggling to cope with the growing number of patients needing surgery, NHS figures show.

Hospitals in England cancelled 4,093 urgent procedures during 2016, equivalent to 341 per month. This was 8% more than the 3,777 scrapped in 2015 and up by 27% on the 3,216 such operations cancelled during 2014.

While some cancellations occur because of a patient’s health, the vast majority are due to hospitals having too few beds, especially in intensive care or high-dependency units in which patients can recover afterwards, often because a more urgent case has arrived. A few involve staff shortages or a surgeon unexpectedly being unavailable.

The latest figures mean 17,598 patients have had their urgent operation cancelled over the past five years, often at the last minute, despite their condition requiring surgery without delay.

Opposition parties claimed that the figures, published on Friday by NHS England, showed problems in the health service were deepening and the government was not giving it sufficient money to keep up with rising demand for treatment.

Full story in The Guardian 27 January 2017