Northumbria Healthcare forced to cancel dozens of ops between April and June

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Dozens of operations were cancelled by Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust between April and June, figures show.

The Patients Association said delayed surgeries were distressing for patients, and has called on the government to provide the NHS with more resources to reduce call-offs.

NHS England figures show 37 pre-booked operations at the Trust were postponed on or after the day the patient was admitted between April and June.

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The NHS aims to offer all people who have routine surgery cancelled at the last minute for non-clinical reasons another date within 28 days.

If an operation is cancelled, the patient should be given a new date within 28 days.If an operation is cancelled, the patient should be given a new date within 28 days.
If an operation is cancelled, the patient should be given a new date within 28 days.

But of the patients who had procedures cancelled at the trust, four had to wait more than four weeks for a new date.

Meanwhile, in the first three months of the year, 41 surgeries were cancelled – with 12 patients left waiting longer than the target time for a follow-up.

And between April and June 2019 – before the Covid-19 pandemic – two patients were not treated within this window.

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Data on cancellations was not collected between January 2020 and September 2021 due to Covid-19 disruption across the NHS.

Across England, 23.6% of hospital patients were not treated with 28 days of a cancelled surgery – up from 23.0% the previous quarter, and one of the highest rates since records began in 1994.

Common non-clinical reasons for last-minute cancellations include a lack of hospital beds, surgeons being unavailable, emergency cases taking precedence, equipment failure and staff shortages.

Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: "It can be distressing and frustrating for a patient when a surgical procedure is cancelled.

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"This can be made worse if the patient doesn't know when the procedure will be rescheduled."

She said all NHS trusts needed to understand how delays affect patients, and that every cancellation added to the backlog NHS England is trying to clear.

The NHS faces a challenge treating people currently waiting, and those newly seeking care – and it needs more staff and resources to do that, Ms Power said.

She added: "Immediate investment in social care is needed to enable hospitals to safely discharge medically fit patients into the community, which would increase the NHS's ability to treat more patients, and a long-term work strategy for both the NHS and social care is urgently needed."