25,000 ops can­celled... be­cause no beds are free

That’s 100 ev­ery day, 35% more than f ive years ago

The Mail on Sunday - - News - By Stephen Adams HEALTH COR­RE­SPON­DENT

TWENTY-FIVE thou­sand op­er­a­tions are can­celled ev­ery year be­cause hos­pi­tals are so full, an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by The Mail on Sun­day has found.

A l ack of beds is f or­c­ing t he can­cel­la­tion of 100 op­er­a­tions ev­ery work­ing day across t he NHS in Eng­land – a fig­ure that has risen 35 per cent in just five years.

Dozens of trusts have seen bedrelated can­cel­la­tions dou­ble since 2012, with one soar­ing seven- fold. Even ur­gent heart and cancer ops are be­ing de­layed, some­times re­peat­edly, due to the short­age. The con­se­quences can be fa­tal.

Last night Pro­fes­sor Derek Alder­son, pres­i­dent of the Royal Col­lege of Sur­geons, said ‘ ma­jor log- jams’ on wards were bring­ing hos­pi­tals to a stand­still, warn­ing: ‘Large num­bers of pa­tients are suf­fer­ing.’

And Dr Taj Has­san, pres­i­dent of the Royal Col­lege of Emer­gency Medicine, said: ‘The beds cri­sis is spi­ralling from chronic to acute. There’s no doubt our bed oc­cu­pancy rates are too high – nowhere near where they should be to be pre­pared for win­ter.

‘We just don’t have enough beds in to cope with the de­mands of emer­gency or pre-planned care.’ He said 5,000 ex­tra beds were needed. But there are plans afoot to strip out thou­sands more so the money can be rein­vested in ‘com­mu­nity care’.

The Mail on Sun­day cal­cu­lated around 25,000 planned op­er­a­tions were can­celled due to bed short­ages last year, af­ter send­ing Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion re­quests to Eng­land’s 153 NHS hospi­tal trusts.

We asked them to pro­vide a break­down of last-minute can­cel­la­tions by cause: lack of beds, op­er­at­ing the­atre ca­pac­ity, staffing, and equip­ment fail­ures. We re­quested five years of an­nual data.

By Fri­day, 92 had re­sponded with full fig­ures for 2016/ 17. They re­ported 15,370 bed-re­lated last-minute can­cel­la­tions in to­tal. Scaled up to ac­count for trusts which failed to give de­tails, it can be es­ti­mated there were 25,500 bed- re­lated can­cel­la­tions in English hos­pi­tals last year.

Prof Alder­son said can­cel­la­tions were ‘ dev­as­tat­ing’ for pa­tients and ‘de­mor­al­is­ing’ for staff. ‘It’s in­cred­i­bly frus­trat­ing,’ he ex­plained. ‘ On the day a sur­geon has to cancel a ma­jor case, which might have taken hours, they can end up sit­ting twid­dling their thumbs. It’s a mas­sive waste of re­sources.’

As a whole, beds ac­count for a third of last-minute can­cel­la­tions; op­er­at­ing the­atre ca­pac­ity 28 per cent; staff short­ages or sick­ness 14 per cent, equip­ment eight per cent and the re­main­ing ‘other’.

Dr Has­san said the find­ings ‘ab­so­lutely sup­port’ the be­lief that a scarcity of beds is at the heart of the NHS’s prob­lems. Last month the King’s Fund think-tank found Bri­tain had just 2.6 hospi­tal beds per 1,000 peo­ple. France has 6.1, Ger­many 8.1.

An NHS Eng­land spokesman said: ‘The fact is that the num-

‘It’s a mas­sive waste of re­sources’

ber of can­celled op­er­a­tions re­mains low at just one per cent in the con­text of the mil­lions of op­er­a­tions per­formed in the NHS each year.’

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