There has been a marked increase in the number of operations being cancelled at the last minute at the North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust.
The trust, which runs Hinchingbrooke, Peterborough and Stamford hospitals, cancelled 201 non-urgent operations, such as hip or knee surgeries, in the three months to June, the latest period covered by NHS England data.
This was an increase of 83 per cent from the same period in 2017, when there were 110 last minute cancellations.
The data covers cancellations that were due to non-clinical reasons, such as bed or staff shortages.
Neil Doverty, chief operating officer at North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Due to the cancellations made by the trust, patients were then rebooked for their operations which added a delay to the waiting list; therefore there is an increase in the number of patients who waited more than 28 days to receive non-urgent treatment.
“We recognise that it is frustrating not only for these patients but also their families, to have your operation cancelled when you have physically and mentally prepared yourself and made arrangements for it to take place.
“The level of cancellations is disappointing and we are working to adjust our methods focussing initially on the specialities with the highest numbers of cancellations.
“I would like to reassure our patients and members of the public that we are putting measures in place to reduce the number of cancellations and apologise to those who have been impacted.”
The Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) blamed “enormous pressure” on the NHS for the increasing number of cancellations in England.
It also warned the figures could be masking the true scale of the problem, as they do not include operations cancelled at more than 24 hours notice.
A last-minute cancellation is defined as being either on the day that a patient was due to arrive, after the patient has arrived, or on the day of the operation itself.
According to the NHS Constitution, the trust must offer a new date within a maximum period of 28 days after a non-urgent operation, such as hip or knee surgeries, has been cancelled.
If it is unable to do so, it must instead fund the treatment with another hospital and forfeit its payment from the NHS Clinical Commissioning Group that funds healthcare in the area.
However, 15 per cent of patients at the North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust were not treated within this 28 day timeframe between April and June. This is an increase on the previous year, when seven per cent of patients weren’t treated within 28 days.
Professor Cliff Shearman, vice president of the RCS, said: “Having an operation that has been planned for months cancelled at short notice can be very stressful for patients.
“Alongside practical considerations such as wasted time off work and rescheduling the surgery, patients will have to deal with the mental anguish of preparing for surgery all over again.
“They will also have to endure waiting longer in pain and discomfort, possibly unable to work or complete day-to-day tasks for themselves.”
In some cases, their condition may worsen.”