More than 150 operations cancelled at Bedfordshire Hospitals Trust at last minute

Some patients had to wait over 28 days for a new date

By Reporter
Tuesday, 22nd February 2022, 12:15 pm

Bedfordshire Hospitals Trust saw more than 150 operations cancelled at the last minute at the end of 2021, figures show.

The "dreadful impact" of the coronavirus pandemic can be seen in the cancellation of thousands of planned surgeries across England, according to the Patients Association.

NHS England figures for Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust show that 165 pre-booked operations were postponed on or after the day the patient was admitted between October and December 2021.

"Every cancellation just adds to the backlog NHS England is trying to clear and the growing number of patients waiting for treatment"

NHS rules state that patients who have their operations cancelled at the last minute must be offered a new operation date within four weeks.

But 11 (7 per cent) of the affected patients at Bedfordshire Hospitals Trust had to wait more than 28 days for a new date, the figures show – up from 1 per cent in 2019-20.

There is no further breakdown between both hospitals - Bedford and Luton & Dunstable.

Across England, NHS providers cancelled 19,300 elective surgeries for non-clinical reasons over the three-month period.

This equated to 1.1 per cent of all activity – a similar proportion to the same quarter in 2019-20, prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

However, the percentage of patients waiting more than a month for operations to be rescheduled rose sharply from 9 per cent to 24 per cent nationally.

That meant there were more than 4,600 breaches of the NHS standard.

Common non-clinical reasons for last-minute cancellations include a lack of hospital beds, surgeons being unavailable, emergency cases taking precedence, equipment failure and staff shortages.

Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said the NHS needed more staff and resources to tackle the problem.

She added: "Every cancellation just adds to the backlog NHS England is trying to clear and the growing number of patients waiting for treatment.

"For individual patients, having long-awaited surgery cancelled at the last minute can be devastating, especially if they've no idea when they will finally be called in.

"The challenge for the NHS is managing to treat all the people currently waiting for care and treatment, while also managing patients newly seeking care."

She said it was vital that patients are supported and kept up to date with how long their wait for treatment would be.

An NHS spokeswoman said there is no doubt that the health service has faced significant pressures over winter, balancing vital patient services with the emergence of the Omicron variant of Covid-19, record high staff absences and the delivery of booster jabs.

She said: "While it was necessary to postpone some routine procedures, the latest data shows that an extra 107,000 patients started consultant-led treatment in December 2021 compared to the same period in 2020, and the recently published elective recovery plan sets out that the NHS will address backlogs and tackle long waits for care.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said the Government's plan to tackle the Covid-19 backlog and deliver long term reform would mean 99 per cent of patients would wait less than a year for treatment by 2024.

He added: "We will deliver innovative ways of working including new surgical hubs and at least 100 community diagnostic centres to help millions of patients get the surgery they need and earlier access to tests – delivering an extra nine million scans, checks and procedures by 2025."