A record number of operations cancelled causes ‘stress and anxiety’ to patients and is unacceptable in a civilised country, the BMA has said.
More than 25,000 operations were cancelled at the last minute between January and March this year – the highest figure since quarterly records began in 1994.
A huge backlog of procedures has resulted, with 2,755 patients now having to wait more than a year for treatment, compared to 1,528 in March 2017.
The figures reflect the inability of hospital trusts to continue with day-to-day work, and having to cancel planned operations, while emergency departments were flooded with patients. In March, 76.4 per cent of patients were seen within four hours in emergency medicine departments – again the worst performance since modern records began.
BMA council chair Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘This analysis reinforces the daily evidence experienced by doctors, staff and patients, of a health service with insufficient capacity to cope with its current demand.
‘It is shameful that last-minute cancelled operations are at their highest level for more than two decades, which creates anxiety and distress for patients and their families, who have already waited months for a date for admission.
‘It is simply not acceptable for a health service in a civilised country to allow patients to go through such distress as a result of the wilful underfunding and mismanagement by Government.
‘The system cannot be allowed to continue running in the red with bed occupancy above safe levels, vast rota gaps and too few staff to provide the care patients need.’
Royal College of Surgeons vice president Ian Eardley put the increase in cancellations down to more patients attending emergency care and requiring admission into planned surgery wards, as well as problems with discharging patients owing to inadequate social care.
It comes after a major BMA project revealed the stark realities of life on the frontline for staff during the winter. Around 160 doctors provided the BMA with submissions regarding life on the frontline, with many referencing stress, others fearing losing their registration and several talking about leaving to start a new career.
Another report from NHS Providers has also highlighted the sheer pressure on the health service during the winter.
The report, Mapping the NHS Winter, finds an increase of 160,000 in the number of patients admitted, transferred or discharged between December 2017 and March 2018, compared to the same period last year.
Dr Nagpaul added: ‘It is urgent that the Government and health leaders act immediately to bring about a funding solution which takes account of the demands on the NHS and the rightful needs of patients. The BMA is demanding that in England the Government plugs the £10bn funding gap that separates us from EU averages.’
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