Over 17,000 NHS operations cancelled at last minute as waiting list hits record 7.6 million
10 Aug 2023
NHS figures published today show 17,024 operations were cancelled at the last minute in the three months to the end of June 2023, as the total waiting list for NHS consultant-led hospital treatment increased to another record high of 7.6 million.
Cancelled operations data also show 3,954 patients were not treated within 28 days of their cancellation, in a breach of the standard. The data published today sets out operations that were cancelled at the last minute for non-clinical reasons. A last-minute cancellation is one that occurs on the day the patient was due to arrive, after they have arrived in hospital or on the day of their operation.
This month’s data also show the number of patients waiting more than 78 weeks for treatment is 7,177. There were 97,275 patients waiting over 65 weeks. The NHS England elective recovery plan has set a target to eliminate waits of over 65 weeks by April 2024.
Responding to today’s figures, Vice President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, Professor Vivien Lees, said:
“No surgeon wants to tell a patient that their operation cannot go ahead, especially on the day it is due to happen. However, this is the difficult position we find ourselves in too often as staffing shortages continue to bite. What is also worrying is that these cancellations are just a drop in the ocean when compared to operations postponed and rescheduled ahead of time this year due to industrial action and other staffing pressures.
“There are many reasons that operations might be cancelled on the day, but our members tell us the most frequent are a shortage of anaesthetic and nursing staff, access to operating theatres, and lack of beds for patients to go to after their procedures.
“While we welcome plans to boost capacity, particularly in diagnostics3, we can’t get away from the fact that the number of people waiting for surgery is still huge. Every cancellation hampers efforts to reduce the waiting list.
“It will be some time yet before we feel the effect of more nurses and doctors promised NHS Long Term Workforce Plan. In the meanwhile, we need to focus on retaining staff, improving their working environments, making sure their hard work is recognised and creating a culture in NHS organisations that makes people want to stay.”
Notes to editors
1. NHS performance statistics on referral to treatment waiting times published today are available here: https://www.england.nhs.uk/statistics/statistical-work-areas/rtt-waiting-times/
2. NHS performance statistics on cancelled elective operations published today are available here: https://www.england.nhs.uk/statistics/statistical-work-areas/cancelled-elective-operations/cancelled-ops-data/
4. We have taken into account estimates for missing data in June 2023 for consultant-led Referral to Treatment (RTT) waiting times.
5. The Royal College of Surgeons of England provides world-class education, assessment and development to 30,000 surgeons, dental professionals and members of the wider surgical and dental care teams, at all stages of their career. Our vision is to see excellent surgical care for everyone. We do this by setting professional standards, facilitating research and championing the best outcomes for patients.
6. For more information, please contact the Press Office: Telephone: 020 7869 6053/6054/6047; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Out-of-hours media enquiries: 0207 869 6056.