Royal Papworth Hospital cancelled 100 urgent operations in 12 months


- Credit: Archant

The Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust cancelled 100 urgent operations over a recent 12-month period, according to NHS England.

Figures show that from July 2017 to June 2018, urgent operations at the trust – which runs the Royal Papworth Hospital in Papworth Everard, between Royston and Huntingdon – were cancelled at a rate of almost two a week.

The Royal College of Surgeons has warned that cancelling urgent operations for non-medical reasons can have debilitating consequences for both patients and hospital staff.

Urgent operations include life-saving intervention, treating the acute onset of life or limb-threatening conditions, or early interventions for serious but not immediately life-threatening conditions.

RCS vice-president Prof Neil Mortensen said: “Cancelling operations causes great anxiety for patients and leaves them waiting longer in pain or discomfort.

“In some cases, patients can deteriorate or develop complications, and their outcomes are often worse the longer they wait for treatment.”

He added: “In the context of the many operations the NHS carries out each year, the total number of urgent operations cancelled is small. However, it is extremely stressful for patients and their families to mentally prepare for surgery, only to be told it cannot go ahead - and deeply disappointing for the staff caring for them.”

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Prof Mortensen said that when urgent operations are cancelled it is often because there are no free beds in the intensive care unit – either due to increased emergency admission or slow discharge of patients.

The figures from NHS England show that on the last Thursday of June, 31 of the 39 beds in the trust’s adult critical care unit were full – an occupancy rate of 79 per cent.

Dr Carl Waldmann, dean of the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine, said: “Doctors working at the coalface are concerned that eventually they may be unable to provide the quality of care that their patients deserve.

“Where no beds are available, this can lead to cancellations of operations or to patients being transferred at their sickest to hospitals away from their loved ones.”

He added: “No intensive care doctor is willing to compromise on patient safety – but without specific interventions to alleviate the pressure on the system, the strain on intensive care staff and their resources will continue to increase putting patients at risk.”

In a study published in March this year, the FICM reported that a majority of critical care units said they were struggling due to nursing staff shortages.

Their survey found that 60 per cent of intensive care units said they did not have a full complement of nurses, and that 40 per cent of units said they had to close beds on at least a weekly basis due to lack of staff.

Beds that are closed due to lack of staff are not counted as available in NHS figures, leading some of the doctors surveyed to suggest that official figures underestimate the extent of the problem.

A Royal Papworth Hospital Foundation Trust spokesman said: “At Royal Papworth Hospital we are absolutely committed to delivering the best service to our patients, and as soon as possible.

“Postponing urgent surgery is always a last resort, but is sometimes unavoidable because of a number of factors, including the number of urgent transplant and emergency patients we treat every month.

“We would like to reassure patients that we are working extremely hard to reduce the number of operations that are cancelled, and that the vast majority of urgent operations go ahead as planned.”