NHS reveals more than 180 operations delayed at Northamptonshire hospitals at end of 2021

No county patients had to wait more than 28 days for surgery, but 24 percent did nationally

By Joanna Morris, Data Reporter
Wednesday, 16th February 2022, 2:41 pm
Updated Wednesday, 16th February 2022, 2:42 pm

Northamptonshire hospitals saw more than 180 operations postponed at the last minute at the end of 2021, figures show.

The 'dreadful impact' of the coronavirus pandemic can be seen through delays to thousands of planned surgeries across England, according to the Patients Association.

NHS England figures for Northampton General Hospital show that 120 pre-booked operations were postponed on or after the day the patient was admitted between October and December 2021.

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More than 180 operations had to be put back at NGH and KGH during three months to December - but none were delayed more than 28 days.

Another 61 pre-booked operations were postponed at Kettering General Hospital.

NHS rules state that patients who have their operations cancelled at the last minute must be offered a new operation date within four weeks.

None of the affected patients at NGH or KGH had to wait more than 28 days for a new date, the figures show.

Across England, NHS providers cancelled 19,300 elective surgeries for non-clinical reasons over the three-month period. This equated to 1.1 percent of all activity – a similar proportion to the same quarter in 2019-20, prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

However, the percentage of patients waiting more than a month for operations to be rescheduled rose sharply from nine percent to 24 percent nationally.

That meant there were more than 4,600 breaches of the NHS standard.

Common non-clinical reasons for last-minute cancellations include a lack of hospital beds, surgeons being unavailable, emergency cases taking precedence, equipment failure and staff shortages.

Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said the NHS needed more staff and resources to tackle the problem.

She added: "Every cancellation just adds to the backlog NHS England is trying to clear and the growing number of patients waiting for treatment.

"For individual patients, having long-awaited surgery cancelled at the last minute can be devastating, especially if they've no idea when they will finally be called in.

"The challenge for the NHS is managing to treat all the people currently waiting for care and treatment, while also managing patients newly seeking care."

She said it was vital that patients are supported and kept up to date with how long their wait for treatment would be.

An NHS spokeswoman said there is no doubt that the health service has faced significant pressures over winter, balancing vital patient services with the emergence of the Omicron variant of Covid-19, record high staff absences and the delivery of booster jabs.

She said: "While it was necessary to postpone some routine procedures, the latest data shows that an extra 107,000 patients started consultant-led treatment in December 2021 compared to the same period in 2020, and the recently published elective recovery plan sets out that the NHS will address backlogs and tackle long waits for care.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said the Government's plan to tackle the Covid-19 backlog and deliver long term reform would mean 99% of patients would wait less than a year for treatment by 2024.

He added: "We will deliver innovative ways of working including new surgical hubs and at least 100 community diagnostic centres to help millions of patients get the surgery they need and earlier access to tests – delivering an extra 9 million scans, checks and procedures by 2025."