Bed Shortages Force NHS to Cancel 170 Operations Every Day at Last Minute

18 December 2013

Bed Shortages Force NHS to Cancel 170 Operations Every Day at Last Minute

New figures made public by NHS England reveal that approximately 170 NHS operations are cancelled every day at the last minute due to the inability of hospitals to cope with a lack of beds, staffing and because of faulty equipment.

The NHS England figures refer to a total of 30,415 elective operations between April to September 2013, and the operations in question were cancelled for patients due to have surgery or who were scheduled to  arrive in hospital. The figures mark a 12 year high with the daily average cancellation figure being the highest since the same period in 2001.

Expert opinions, including those from pressure Group Health Emergency as well as the National Audit Office (NAO), have suggested that NHS trusts are experiencing a serious shortage of beds, with Accident & Emergency (A&E) department strained to full capacity and increased difficulty in management being able to juggle planned operations.

Other facts attributed to the high figures include the over-running of earlier operations, prioritisation of emergency surgeries and administrative errors. The average daily rate of cancellations is 169, which was last at such a high level in 2001 based on the same period of time.

The figures for average daily cancellation also show a rise over the last two years; in September 2012 the figure was 151 and in September 2011 it was 142.

The problem of over capacity is one which pressure group Health Emergency and its representative Mr John Lister focused on when appraising the new figures. Mr Lister said: 'Vast number of hospitals have no capacity to take in a mix of emergency and elective cases.'

'Emergencies will always take priority so if you fill your hospitals up with emergency cases then elective cases are going to be bounced back.

'These numbers show that hospitals can’t cope with the combined caseload.'

Mr Lister further warned that: 'The squeeze is going to continue to tighten as A&E caseloads continue to be high and, in some cases, running at winter-peak levels right throughout the year.'

In November 2013,  a NAO survey found that bed occupancy rates averaged nearly 90 per cent across NHS trusts in England. The NAO survey also found that a fifth of all trusts reported rates of more than 95 per cent between January and March 2013.

The worst performing health trusts for cancelled operations between April - September this year included Barts in East London (cancelling 649 elective operations), the University Hospitals of Leicester Trust, and Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust.

Meanwhile, The University Hospitals of Leicester Trust cancelled 441 elective surgeries and Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust were forced to call of a further 296 operations.

Both these Trusts were placed in the ‘highest risk’ category for failing patients by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in October 2013.

If you have had any experience of treatment being cancelled due to bed shortages, cancelled operations, faulty medical equipment or any form of medical mistreatment at any of the mentioned Trusts-or any others not mentioned in this have a specialist team who are able to provide you with relevant advice, support and guidance so that you understand your patient and healthcare rights and know exactly where you stand.