The number of operations cancelled by the NHS in England because of staff shortages may have doubled in three years, with an estimated 30,000 not proceeding because no staff were available to perform them.
At least a third of cancelled operations were those that were deemed urgent, according to the analysis by Labour. It suggested at least 2,500 cancelled operations for cancer patients and 8,000 on children.
It found staff shortages were the most common reason given for cancellations by hospitals, accounting for one in five of all operations cancelled for non-clinical reasons last year.
The Department of Health and Social Care said it was “misleading” to extrapolate that figure from the data in the FOIs. “Thousands of elective appointments and procedures had to be cancelled during the pandemic to protect the NHS, and since then we’ve been focused on delivering the biggest catch-up programme in health history - virtually eliminating the longest 2-year waits for treatment,” a spokesman said.
In total, 158,000 operations were cancelled for issues including equipment failures, a shortage of beds, and 5,700 because of equipment failure, administrative errors, and theatre lists overrunning. Labour cited one case that involved a 72-year-old woman who had two operations to remove a brain tumour cancelled in September, blamed on a lack of available beds.
About 9,500 operations were cancelled because an emergency case took priority, and 250 due to adverse weather.
Separate figures from the NHS show record numbers of operations cancelled at the last minute are not rearranged to take place within a month, with one in five patients waiting longer.
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Source: The Guardian, 12 December 2022