Record number of patients with op cancellations not rescheduled

Record number of operations aren’t being rescheduled in time after last-minute cancellations as one in 13 wait more than a MONTH for their next slot

  • Patients are facing long waits after not being rescheduled in within a month 
  • The figures are the worst in 14 years, despite cancellation numbers falling
  • Lack of beds has been cited as a main reason, as NHS under pressure in winter

A record high number of patients are not having their operations rescheduled on time after they were cancelled at the last minute.

One in 13 patients in England did not have their operations rescheduled within the mandatory 28-day period after their surgery was cancelled on the day.

This figure, covering October, November and December, is an increase on the same period in the previous year and is the worst for 14 years.

Pressures on the NHS and a lack of beds have had a knock-on effect in hospitals across the country, experts warn.

A record high number of patients are not having their operations rescheduled after it was cancelled on the original date (stock image)

The data show eight per cent of operations were not rescheduled within the NHS’s four-week time frame, compared with 7.3 per cent in the past two years, and just 3.8 per cent in 2011/12.

Operations cancelled for non-clinical reasons, such as bed or staff shortages, were included, but not operations called off by patients themselves.

‘Last minute’ refers to on the day the patient was due to arrive, after the patient had arrived in hospital or on the day of the operation or surgery.

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The worst performer was Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust.

There were 160 cancellations and 52 were not rescheduled within a month, giving a breach rate of 32.5 per cent.

Milton Keynes University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust had 40 cancellations and 12 weren’t rescheduled in time (30 per cent), while North Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust had 37 cancellations and 11 not rescheduled (also 30 per cent).

In total, 73 trusts performed worse than they had in the previous year.

The highest number of cancellations overall was University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, with 667 cancellations.


Waiting times at A&E in England have reached their worst level since the four-hour target was introduced in 2004. 

Data from NHS England shows just 84.4 per cent of patients were treated or admitted in four hours in January, compared to the 95 per cent target. 

This means once a decision was made to admit them, nearly 83,519 people in January alone waited longer than they should to be officially admitted or found a bed.

And since the target was last hit in July 2015, nearly 333,000 patients have endured unacceptably long waits.

The data reveals 15.6 per cent of patients spent more than four hours waiting to go to A&E last month. 

Nuffield Trust’s chief economist Professor John Appleby has claimed the ‘NHS is fighting a losing battle’ in trying to get the public seen on time, while Dr Chaand Nagpaul, council chair of the British Medical Association said the health service is ‘on its knees’.

The NHS England data did show, however, that the overall number of cancelled operations across England has fallen slightly.

There were 20,145 last-minute cancellations of non-urgent operations, such as hip or knee surgeries, during the three-month period, down on the same three months in the previous year, when there were 21,984 cancellations.

A spokeswoman for the Royal College of Surgeons said: ‘Waiting for surgery is a very stressful and worrying time for patients and their families, and such long waits are simply unacceptable.

‘The longer patients wait, the more risk there is that their conditions may deteriorate.’

The RCS blamed pressure on A&E departments for the delays in rescheduling surgery.

‘Recent NHS data shows that January saw the worst A&E performance on record,’ the spokeswoman continued.

‘It is inevitable that this pressure on A&E will have a knock-on effect for bed capacity, and therefore on planned surgery, during the coming months.

‘The RCS strongly believes that the NHS needs to commit to increasing hospital bed capacity.

‘Without extra beds, we fear hospitals will struggle to properly tackle long waits for surgery.’

An NHS England spokesman said: ‘The number of cancelled routine operations has fallen, despite significant pressure on emergency services.

‘Fewer than one per cent of operations are postponed on the day, and nurses, doctors and NHS leaders across the country are also rightly prioritising emergency patients over the winter period.’

A lack of capacity was the reason given for why 600 surgeries – 2.4% of all planned procedures – did not go ahead in the December of last year. 

Hospitals cancelled almost 20 operations a day in December.

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