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15.5% rise in planned operations cancelled at the last minute in one year

10 Feb 2017

NHS England data published today for October - December 2016 show that the number of cancelled planned operations has further increased.

Figures show 21,249 planned operations were cancelled for non-clinical reasons in October - December 2016. This compares to 18,393 planned operations cancelled in October - December 2015. This is a rise of 15.5% in one year even though there has only been a 1% rise in the total number of planned admissions. These are the worst cancelled planned operation figures for October - December since 2004/05.
Commenting on the rise in cancelled planned operations, Miss Clare Marx, President of the Royal College of Surgeons, said:
“There are no new ways of describing the relentless pressures on NHS services, staff and the patients we serve.
“Cancelling operations for non-clinical reasons means patients wait longer, causing stress for them and their families. In some cases we know patients deteriorate or develop complications and their outcomes are often worse the longer they wait for treatment.
“Last minute cancellations are just the tip of the iceberg. Many more patients are cancelled in the days before their operation is due. It is heart-breaking for patients to psychologically prepare themselves for an operation, only to be told that it can’t go ahead. Often it is because there are no free beds either due to increased emergency admissions or slow discharge of patients who are fit to leave hospital but have no community care or home support to go to.
“Continuing down this road is inefficient and distressing to patients and staff alike. It is welcome news that extra funding for social care is expected from the Government in the spring but we also urgently need a cross-party agreement as to the shape of a sustainable future for the NHS.”

Notes to editors

1. The Royal College of Surgeons of England is a professional membership organisation and registered charity, which exists to advance surgical standards and improve patient care.

2. For more information, please contact the Press Office:

3. Full data available here:

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