Hospitals make progress in cutting cancelled operations

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Hundreds of surgical operations have been called off at short notice so far this year at Sheffield hospitals for non-clinical reasons - but health chiefs say they are making progress in cutting the rate of cancellations as a top priority.

At Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust - which runs the Royal Hallamshire, Weston Park and Northern General hospitals - 260 operations were cancelled on the day.

The figures were revealed in quarterly figures published by NHS England, covering April to June this year.

In 2012/13, 1,161 operations were cancelled, up from 879 in 2009/10.

One of the biggest non-clinical reasons was bed availability, and high numbers of emergency admissions and winter bugs also had an impact.

Managers are aiming to get the figure down to four per cent by next April, then to bring it down further in future years.

From April to June last year, 272 procedures were called off on the day, meaning a reduction of 12 has been achieved so far.

Richard Parker, deputy chief operating officer at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, said: “We only cancel operations in exceptional circumstances because we know how stressful this can be to the patient and their family.

“Usually an operation is cancelled either because the patient is not fit to undergo surgery or due to a high level of demand by emergency patients.

“However, I am pleased to say due to the hard work of our staff so far this year we have cancelled 7.3 per cent less operations than the same period last year.”

Mr Parker added: “We will continue to work hard to minimise the number of cancelled operations although this becomes more of a challenge during the busy winter months.”

In May the trust said a ‘key objective’ was to reduce the number of patients who experience cancellations on the day.

“We have commenced a review of the inpatient waiting list management process within orthopaedics with the aim of standardising this process.

“This will then be rolled out across our surgical specialities,” said medical director Dr David Throssell in a report to the council.

Other current priorities include reducing prevalence of pressure ulcers and providing better discharge information for patients.

“The quality of discharge information available for patients is variable, and has been a cause for complaint from some patients,” says Mr Throssell.

The hospitals trust is also working on efforts to reduce lengths of stay on its wards compared with UK benchmarks.