Thousands of operations cancelled every year


By Cara Sulieman

MORE THAN 600 operations are cancelled in Scotland a week, with a quarter of them being scrapped by the hospital.

NHS Fife chalked up the most, with 146 operations a week being called off.

Just over half of Fife’s cancellations were made by the hospital, and the other half by patients or “other miscellaneous reasons”.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde were next with 99 a week.

The problem came to light after shadow health secretary Jackie Baillie submitted freedom of information requests to all of Scotland’s health boards.

The responses revealed that surgeons, anaesthetists and other staff were to blame for a quarter of the cancellations across the country.

This can be due to a lack of beds, staff absences, equipment failures or because the patient is unfit for surgery.

Half are cancelled because of “other miscellaneous reasons” and the remaining quarter down to patients not turning up or changing their minds about the procedure.

The figures have angered politicians and patient groups, who are appalled that the figure has gone up by 13 per cent in 2009/10.

Labour MSP Jackie Baillie said: “These figures reveal the true scale of the problem in Scotland.

“The number of cancelled operations is almost double the number reported in official statistics.

“Patients have a responsibility to turn up for appointments, but I am particularly concerned by the high number of operations that are being cancelled by hospitals.

“This is a sign of the increasing pressure on NHS staff and resources, such as bed numbers, as a result of the SNP’s cuts to health budgets.

“Just as it is unacceptable when patients miss appointments, it is also unacceptable when people who have been waiting for operations face long waiting times, delays and cancellations.

“The Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon needs to get a grip of the situation or it will get much worse.”

A total of 31,000 surgical procedures were cancelled in the last financial year and the number could be even higher as two health boards were unable to give reliable figures.

NHS Grampian said it could not provide the information, and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde only covered a nine month period.

Margaret Watt, chair of the Scotland Patients Association, said: “Gearing up for an operation is stressful enough without having it cancelled at the last minute.

“These figures show there are not enough staff and not enough beds.”

A Scottish Government Spokesman said: “Waiting times are at a record low.

“Around 98.5 per cent of NHS procedures take place as planned following admission to hospital.

“Operations are only cancelled where there are good reasons for doing so.”


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