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12 ops a day cancelled in hospital beds scandal; Even urgent surgery to save lives, limbs or organs scrubbed.

Byline: Alison Stacey Health Correspondent

BIRMINGHAM hospital trusts are cancelling 12 operations a day in an "austerity scandal" due to lack of beds.

Exclusive figures have revealed that cancelled operations rose by a fifth in the last year across the city, with 3,602 last-minute cancellations in 2017-18.

Heartlands, Good Hope and Solihull hospitals, which are now run by the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB) cancelled 1,723 operations, a 47 per cent increase in a year.

Freedom of information requests also revealed the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, run by the same trust, had 1,588 cancellations, an increase of 13 per cent.

Last-minute cancellations are those that take place on the day the operation is scheduled, including after the patient has arrived at hospital.

Of the cancellations, 178 were urgent operations. These included operations where urgent intervention was needed to save a life, limb or organ - either within minutes and hours, but up to a maximum of a few days.

The most common reason for operations to be cancelled was due to a lack of beds, with 1,457 cancellations for this reason last year.

Cancellations were also down to theatre lists overrunning, or to make way for emergencies.

A spokesman for UHB told the Post that increased patient attendance and lack of bed capacity across England had led to the increase in cancellations. The spokesman said: "We recognise that postponing operations causes anxiety and disruption for patients and their families and we work hard to ensure elective procedures can go ahead as planned. "UHB continues to experience a year-on-year increase in the number of emergency admissions. The resulting effect on capacity can unfortunately mean some elective procedures are rescheduled.

"In January 2018, The National Emergency Pressures Panel recommended that all non-urgent inpatient elective care taking place in January (2018) should be deferred due to the lack of capacity in hospitals across England.

"The trust did not apply this blanket cancellation policy but did cancel some additional elective procedures during this time.

"The trust has since opened additional capacity, including the opening of the Emergency Observation Unit and Ambulance Handover and Assessment Area to help make available the acute hospital beds required for patients undergoing an elective procedure."

Meanwhile, the Birmingham Women's and Children's Hospitals Trust had a 22 per cent decline in cancellations, with just 369 cancelled operations in the last year.

Across Britain, hospitals cancelled 238,000 operations in 2017-18, the equivalent of a cancellation every two minutes on average.

This includes 34,000 cancellations because no beds were available, 34,000 cancellations due to staff being unavailable, and 31,000 cancellations due to theatre lists overrunning.

Based on trusts and health boards that provided information for all years, the number of cancellations has jumped by nine per cent in a year, and is 29 per cent higher than in 2013-14.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: "The whole of the NHS is under pressure during the winter months, and difficult decisions need to be made to prioritise those most in need right across the board.

"GPs and our teams are very aware that when hospital operations are cancelled, this can lead to a surge in patients contacting their local surgery asking for advice about next steps, asking for further sick notes and painkillers and asking if there is anything their family doctor can do to help them.

"It's important during planning for winter pressures to remember they are not just confined to hospitals and that GPs and their teams are also working flat out to try and cope with demand."

A Royal College of Surgeons spokesman said: "It is of deep concern that the NHS has seen an increase in the number of operations cancelled last year for non-clinical reasons, such as lack of beds and staff or admin errors.

"It's stressful and disappointing for patients and their families to prepare for surgery only to have it cancelled. Some patient's conditions may even deteriorate while they wait."

Jon Ashworth, Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary, said the figures were 'scandalous'.

He told the Post: "Cancelled operations on this scale is nothing short of a scandal and comes on the back of years of Tory cuts to hospital beds, austerity and chronic staff shortages.

"Behind these statistics are thousands of people waiting longer and longer in pain and anxiety for an operation, with huge risks their health will deteriorate further.

"Ministers should hang their heads in shame for what they have done to our NHS.

"Theresa May can't ignore the reality of the crisis in our NHS."

Cancelled operations rose by a fifth in the last year across the city

Cancelled operations on this scale is nothing short of a scandalLabour's Shadow Health Secretary, Jon Ashworth

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Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 3, 2019
Words:800
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