400 operations cancelled – but Vic rates high

Blackpool Teaching Hospitals fared better than most trusts
Blackpool Teaching Hospitals fared better than most trusts

Almost 400 patients were put through the agony of a last minute cancelled operation in Blackpool hospitals in the first nine months of this year, according to new figures.

But all the surgery was re-scheduled inside 28 days, honouring a pledge made in the NHS Constitution.

We realise the inconvenience this can cause patients and that is why we do our utmost to reschedule their procedures as soon as possible

While a total of 395 elective procedures were called off late - some on the day of surgery - the Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust performed far better than many of England’s 167 health authorities.

Neighbouring Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Trust, which runs the hospitals in Preston and Chorley, was rated as one of the worst in the country with almost 1,000 people having their surgery cancelled at the last minute between January and the end of September.

One in seven of those failed to get a new date within four weeks – a figure which drew a public apology from the trust’s operations director Suzanne Hargreaves. In Blackpool the statistics produced by the NHS show that in the first quarter of 2016 there were 190 patients left frustrated by late cancellations for non-clinical reasons such as staffing issues or bed shortages. Between April and June that figure dropped to 90 and in the July to September quarter it increased slightly to 115.

Pat Oliver, director of operations at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals, said: “Cancelling operations is only ever done as a last resort and is something we regret deeply, as we realise the distress and inconvenience it causes to patients and their families.

“Despite all our best efforts there are many reasons why operations are cancelled at short notice, for example we do experience a high level of emergency admissions and regrettably this affects some routine surgical patients

“We realise the inconvenience this can cause patients and that is why we do our utmost to reschedule their procedures as soon 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-scehduling 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.