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RCS response to NHS England winter pressures operational update

21 Dec 2017

The new National Emergency Pressures Panel (NEPP)has said that non-urgent inpatient elective care should be deferred until mid-January to ensure beds and staff are available for the sickest patients. By acting early Trusts can avoid last minute cancellations that can be costly and inconvenient for patients.

Responding to this, Professor Derek Alderson, President of the Royal College of Surgeons, said:

“No-one wants to have their surgery cancelled with less than 24 hours’ notice, yet this was the unacceptable experience for thousands of patients last winter. This guidance from NHS England will help to avoid a repeat of that situation and ensure finite hospital capacity is prioritised on patients in most need of help. However, we appreciate that this guidance still arrives at short notice for patients due to have their operation in the coming week.

“We share NHS England’s sentiment that while hospitals should prioritise emergency treatment over operations that can wait, they must not cancel any urgent or cancer surgery, or surgery where a patient’s condition is likely to deteriorate if they are not treated promptly. Patients with inflammatory bowel disease, for instance, might well fall into such a category.

“While we have to plan according to the reality of pressures in the NHS this winter, cancelling planned surgery is not a sustainable way of dealing with emergency pressures. Putting aside today’s short-term measure, we urgently need a wider look at how we can protect planned surgery and hospital bed capacity for the future.”

Notes to editors

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.

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