Surgeons rail against rise in cancelled operations

Surgeons have expressed their distress at the mounting number of elective care operations being cancelled in the NHS in the run-up to winter. 

According to The Royal College of Emergency Medicine’s Winter Flow Project 2021-22, 6,726 elective care operations were cancelled last month, while 6,335 were called off in October.

Prof Neil Mortensen, president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said: ‘It is very alarming that more than 13,000 planned operations were cancelled in the past two months alone.  

Prof Neil Mortensen

‘This means thousands of patients who had prepared themselves for vital hip, knee and other types of planned surgery were left waiting in limbo for their treatment. NHS staff are working flat-out, but as this report shows, there simply are not enough hospital beds to meet the huge demands we are seeing in the wake of the pandemic.’ 

He said the college agreed with the Royal College of Emergency Medicine that NHS capacity must be expanded after years of shortages.

Prof Mortensen made a renewed plea to government to increase the number of hospital beds to reach the OECD average. This would expand the number of hospital beds in England from 2.5 to 4.7 per 1,000 population.   

He added: ‘The NHS is staffed by world-leading doctors and nurses – they cannot care for patients properly with a bed base the size of a postage stamp.’

Colleagues working in emergency medicine had been facing ‘winter pressures’ since the summer. 

‘Their concerns to avoid “corridor care” are well-founded. An urgent effort is now required to get those patients who are fit to be discharged from hospital back into the community, freeing up beds for patients who need an operation.’