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Number of patients waiting for rescheduled operations hits 10-year high

13 May 2016

New statistics for 2015/16 published by NHS England today show that the number and percentage of patients waiting more than 28 days to have their cancelled operations rescheduled has hit the highest level in a decade. This affects patients who have had their operation cancelled at the last minute due to non-clinical reasons such as beds or staff being unavailable.

The data shows that 74,086 patients had their operations cancelled during 2015/16 – the highest number since 2001/02. The total number (5,063) and percentage of patients (6.8%) then not treated within 28 days of their cancelled operation has reached a 10-year high. The NHS Constitution pledges that all patients will have their cancelled operation rescheduled within 28 days or the patient’s treatment needs to be funded at the time and hospital of their choice.

Miss Clare Marx, President of the Royal College of Surgeons said:

"It is disappointing that the number of patients waiting for their cancelled operations to be rescheduled has hit the highest level in a decade. This is yet another indication of the pressure the NHS is under.

"Situations where patients have to wait longer for their treatment are highly stressful for them and their families and, in some cases, their condition could deteriorate. It is vital that access to healthcare must be provided at a time when patients can benefit most from the result.

"There are likely to be a number of factors behind this rise that Government and the NHS need to continue to tackle including pressures in emergency departments, staffing shortages, and lack of bed availability due to rising delayed transfers of care. Industrial action may not have helped but the underlying causes are likely to be more strongly related to the broader pressures the NHS faces."

Notes to editors

1. Full data available here:

2. In 2015/2016:

  • 74,086 elective operations were cancelled (highest number since 2001/02)
  • 5,063 patients were not treated within 28 days of their operation being cancelled (highest number since 2005/06)
  • 6.8% of patients not treated within 28 days of cancellation as a percentage of cancellations (highest percentage since 2005/06)

3. 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.

4. For more information, please contact the RCS Press Office

Telephone: 020 7869 6047/6052


For out of hours media enquiries: 07966 486832

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