One in four Londoners facing long wait for rescheduled surgery

Staff on a hospital ward (Stock image)  (PA Archive)
Staff on a hospital ward (Stock image) (PA Archive)

Nearly one in four Londoners who had an operation cancelled at the last minute over the summer had still not been treated four weeks later, data shows.

The NHS aims to offer people who have routine surgery cancelled at the last minute for non-clinical reasons “another binding date within 28 days”.

A total of 3,048 operations were cancelled for non-clinical reasons between July and September this year across London’s hospitals.

Although the figure is roughly the same as pre-pandemic levels, the proportion of people who did not receive a rescheduled operation date within four weeks has almost trebled compared with the same quarter in 2019. It was also up by about 2.3 per cent on the previous quarter.

The figures reflect the pressure on the NHS as it faces a record backlog in care caused by the pandemic, with over a million Londoners waiting for routine hospital treatment.

Strikes by nurses on Wednesday and Thursday are expected to cause further disruption to operations. More than 45,000 junior doctors are also being balloted for strike action by the British Medical Association.

In commentary released alongside the figures, NHS England cited a lack of ward beds, surgeons, anaesthetists and theatre staff as common reasons for the cancellation of operations. There are more than 132,000 vacancies across the NHS.

Miss Fiona Myint, Vice President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, told the Standard: “It is very distressing for patients to have an operation cancelled and unsettling not to know when it will be re-scheduled for.

"Unfortunately, there has been a big increase in the number of cancelled operations that have not been re-scheduled within the standard of 28 days compared to before the pandemic.

"We know from talking to London-based surgeons that surgical capacity is an issue and more surgical beds and theatres need to be ring-fenced for planned operations, so that operations can go ahead. We also need investment in staff, because a common reason operations are cancelled is there are not the theatre nurses or anaesthetists for them to proceed safely."

A spokesperson for the NHS in London said: “Between July and September 2022 there were 350,000 people successfully discharged after treatment in London, which is an 8 per cent improvement on last year.

“On occasion, operations can get cancelled for non-clinical reasons such as an emergency cases needing theatre, however in such cases NHS staff work hard to see these patients as soon as possible.”