Pressure on 'over-stretched' NHS blamed for huge surge in cancelled operations in Lancashire
The number of operations cancelled last minute in the Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has surged.
Figures from NHS England show that 315 non-urgent operations, such as hip or knee procedures, were cancelled by the trust at the last minute in the three months to September, one of the highest numbers in the country.
This was an increase of 62 per cent from the same period in 2017, when there were 195.
The data covers cancellations for to non-clinical reasons, such as bed or staff shortages at the Royal Preston Hospital and Chorley and South Ribble Hospital.
The Royal College of Surgeons has blamed pressure on the over-stretched NHS for the increasing number of cancellations in England.
It also warned the figures could be masking the true scale of the problem, as they do not include operations cancelled at more than 24 hours' notice.
A last-minute cancellation is defined as being either on the day that a patient was due to arrive, after the patient has arrived, or on the day of the operation itself.
Professor Cliff Shearman, vice president of the RCS, said: “Having an operation that has been planned for months cancelled at short notice can be very stressful for patients and their families.
"Alongside practical considerations such as wasted time off work and rescheduling the surgery, patients will have to deal with the mental anguish of preparing for surgery all over again.
“They will also have to endure waiting longer in pain and discomfort, possibly unable to work or complete day-to-day tasks for themselves. In some cases, their condition may worsen."
If a trust is unable to reschedule the operation within 28 days, it must instead fund the treatment in another hospital.
It also forfeits its payment from the NHS Clinical Commissioning Group, which funds healthcare in the area.
However, 15 per cent of patients at the Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust were not treated within this 28 day timeframe between July and September.This Is an increase on the previous year, when 13 per cent of patients weren't treated within 28 days.
There were 18,460 last minute cancellations across England in the three months to September.
Of these, 8.3 per cent of patients did not have their operations rescheduled within 28 days.
This rate is higher than the same period a year ago, when it was 6.8 per cent.
Sarah Scobie, deputy director of research at the Nuffield Trust, said: "Sadly, this is not a surprise. Although these numbers are small, this is yet another sign of how difficult the NHS is currently finding it to provide as much planned care as people need.
"Last month, we saw waiting times reach their worst level in nearly a decade."
An NHS England spokesman said: “Only a small minority of operations are cancelled on the day, while 15,000 fewer people now wait a year for their operation compared with 2010.
“New guidance issued to trusts recently will see local health service leaders allocate extra funding to community services, like district nursing teams and outreach clinics, to help them care for more patients, freeing up hospital beds and staff to reduce surgery waiting lists.”