AROUND 1,000 patients have been put through the agony of a last minute cancelled operation at Preston and Chorley hospitals so far this year.
One in seven of them were kept waiting longer than a month for a new appointment, say new NHS figures.
The statistics place Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Trust among the worst of all England’s 167 health authorities for calling off surgery at late notice.
And the trust is also in the bottom 10 across the country for failing to re-schedule operations within the 28-day target pledged in the NHS Constitution.
Figures issued for the first three-quarters of 2016 make depressing reading for patients currently on waiting lists for elective procedures at both the Royal Preston Hospital and the Chorley and South Ribble Hospital.
In the nine months up to the end of September the trust cancelled a total of 969 operations at the last minute for non-clinical reasons such as staff or bed shortages. That total has almost certainly gone over the 1,000 mark in the nine weeks since.
But the trust also failed in at least 140 of those cases to provide a new appointment within four weeks.
The worst period came during January to March when 402 cases of surgery were put off and 43 of those patients did not get a new date for surgery within 28 days.
The figures for April to June quarter were 255 cancelled and 61 not re-scheduled. Between July and the end of September the numbers came to 312 and 36.
Following publication of the statistics Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Trust issued a statement apologising
It blamed an increase in patients being seen at A&E, the numbers of elderly people unable to be discharged from hospital and the need to focus resources on an increasing number of patients with serious condition.
Suzanne Hargeaves, operations director at the trust, said: “I offer my sincere apologies to anyone whose procedure has been delayed and I wish to assure you we will re-schedule appointments as swiftly as possible.”
Last-minute cancellations are classed as procedures called off on the day a patient is due to arrive in hospital, or after they have arrived, or on the day the operation is scheduled to take place.
Non-clinical reasons include no beds available on the ward, no critical care beds, staff not available (including surgeons, anaesthetists and theatre staff), an emergency case taking prioirty in the theatre, essential equipment not working, or an administrative error.
The 28-day re-scheduling period is pledge laid down in the NHS Constitution and covers all planned and booked hospital operations, including day case surgery. It does not cover minor operations carried out at clinics.
Of all the 51 trusts in the North of England Commissioning Region, Lancashire Teaching Hospitals’ figures on cancelled ops are worse than all apart from the likes of Sheffield and Leeds.
Ms Hargreaves added: “So far 2016 has been an extremely busy year at our hospitals. We have seen 4,237 more patients attend our emergency department this year compared to last year.
“We are now seeing a constant steady rise in the number of elderly people with urgent care needs both attending and being admitted to hospital and an increase in the length of time patients are staying in hospital.
“In hospital every day there are at least 40 people, who cannot be discharged because arrangements aren’t in place to meet their ongoing health and social care needs.”
“We are working with local health and social care organisations to make sure enough services are available to enable people to keep well at home and support them to leave hospital promptly when they no longer require our specialist care.
“Our priority is to provide the highest standards of care for our patients and we continue to do everything we possibly can to maintain all of our services. However at times we have had no option but to postpone a number of planned procedures to make sure we have enough capacity and resources to look after the increasing number of patients with serious conditions who need urgent care.
“We hope patients and their families can see that all of our staff are absolutely committed to making sure anyone who requires urgent treatment is admitted to hospital promptly and are doing all we can to continue to provide the highest standard of care.”