Patients’ trauma as surgery cancelled

SP92861 Maria Murphy and daughter Michelle Vickers.
SP92861 Maria Murphy and daughter Michelle Vickers.

MORE than 4,000 operations have been cancelled at Sheffield’s hospitals since 2007 on the day patients were due to go under the knife.

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospitals, faces a £100,000 fine as it approaches a Government target for the number of cancellations this year.

Managers at the trust say they are taking action to improve the situation, by moving hip and knee operations from the Northern General Hospital, where A&E cases often lead to routine operations being cancelled, to the Royal Hallamshire.

Information published in The Star’s Your Right To Know campaign shows in the first seven months of this financial year, April to October, 844 elective operations were cancelled on the due day for non-clinical reasons.

Some 115 operations were cancelled because staff were not available, 143 because beds were full, 134 because of a lack of theatre time, 18 because wards had been closed and 25 because of administrative errors.

Patient Maria Murphy, who has twice had operations in Sheffield cancelled, said it was ‘devastating’ to be sent home just before she was due to undergo surgery.

Both times the 47-year-old mum was sent home on the day she was due for surgery for a brain aneurism because emergency cases bumped her case off the operating table.

Maria, from Chesterfield, who had waited several months for her operation at the Hallamshire because she was not ready for surgery, said: “It was a nightmare.

“You get yourself mentally ready and then you are told to go home. Then you have to prepare all over again. It is devastating.”

Maria finally had her operation in October. She is on the mend and has nothing but praise for the nurses and doctors who treated her.

Only a tiny proportion of operations scheduled at the hospitals are cancelled on the day – 0.6 per cent last year. But there has been a steady increase of cancellations over the last four years.

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act - before they were audited by hospital managers - show 4,118 procedures cancelled at the last minute between April 2007 and October 2011, increasing year-on-year.

Numbers audited and adjusted by Sheffield Teaching Hospitals and reported to the Department of Health, list 639 operations cancelled between April and October 2011, compared to 844 reported to The Star.

The audited figure puts the trust in danger of breaching the Government’s target limit of 790 by April, which will mean a £100,000 fine.

Hospital managers say they are carrying out more operations than ever before – 141,000 last year, up from 132,000 two years earlier.

Paul Sutton, the trust’s clinical director for orthopaedics, said: “We want to offer the best possible care to all our patients and the last thing we ever want to do is to cancel anyone’s operation, as we know how stressful this is.”