The number of patients who had NHS operations cancelled at the last minute is the highest since records began in 1994, figures today reveal.
Official figures show 24,475 procedures were aborted in the eleventh hour between January and March this year in England – 1.3 per cent of all admissions.
The figures have been branded ‘unacceptable’ by the Royal College of Surgeons, as it warns the scrapped surgeries have left thousands in agony.
But the data doesn’t include the tens of thousands of operations that health chiefs controversially declared would be postponed in advance back in January.
Unprecedented pressures in overcrowded A&E units – described as being like war zones – have also had a knock-on effect on spiraling waiting times.
Nearly 3,000 patients have now endured waits for NHS treatment of more than a year – the highest total in six years, according to NHS England data.
However, health chiefs argue the NHS is finally in ‘recovery mode’, after being crippled by an ‘eternal winter’.
Medics hoped the ‘worst winter ever’ – as it was dubbed by Health and Social Care Secretary Jeremy Hunt – would have been over by March.
Hospitals normally quieten down in spring, allowing staff to ‘catch up’. But there has been no such let-up this year, partly due to heavy snow and a severe flu outbreak.
Waiting lists soar
NHS England ‘referral to treatment’ statistics for March also show how badly waiting lists have been affected by the winter crisis.
The number of patients waiting more than 18 weeks to start planned treatment was 491,102 (87.2 per cent) – the highest figure since August 2008.
This means the Government’s 92 per cent target has now not been met in more than two years – since February 2016.
The number of patients waiting longer than 18 weeks for planned treatment in March 2017 was 362,527, according to the data.
A total of 2,755 patients had been on the waiting list for more than 52 weeks – nearly double the 1,528 recorded in the same month last year.
Ian Eardley, vice president of the RCS, said: ‘An exceptionally high number of operations were cancelled at the last minute between January and March.
‘This will be because of increasing numbers of patients attending emergency care and requiring admission into planned surgery wards, as well as problems discharging patients who are ready to leave hospital, as there is inadequate social care support in the community.
PRIME MINISTER THERESA MAY FINALLY APOLOGISES FOR THE 55,000 OPERATIONS CANCELLED… A DAY AFTER REFUSING TO ACCEPT THE NHS WAS IN THE MIDST OF A CRISIS
Mrs May finally apologised to patients who faced a delay on January 4
Prime Minister Theresa May finally apologised to patients who faced a delay on January 4, after it was announced 55,000 operations will be postponed.
The unprecedented move to cancel non-urgent procedures to free up beds and frontline staff was made by NHS bosses.
The decision prompted an apology from Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt yesterday, following pressure from his critics that he was ‘running scared’.
Mrs May apologised during a visit today to Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey, one of many trusts affected by the NHS move to cancel procedures.
After refusing to accept the NHS was in a crisis the day before, she said: ‘I know it’s difficult, I know it’s frustrating, I know it’s disappointing for people, and I apologise.’
Her comments followed official data which showed record numbers of patients are being forced to wait in ambulances for treatment.
Some 16,900 people were forced to wait for more than 30 minutes in ambulances to be seen by staff at A&E over the Christmas week – the highest total this winter.