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Statement in response to RCEM operation cancellation figures

07 Dec 2021

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine’s Winter Flow Project 2021/22 reveals that in November 2021, 6,726 elective care operations were cancelled; and in October 2021, 6,335 elective care operations were cancelled.

Professor Neil Mortensen, President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said:

“It is very alarming that more than 13,000 planned operations were cancelled in the past two months alone.  This means thousands of patients who had prepared themselves for vital hip, knee and other types of planned surgery, were left waiting in limbo for their treatment.  NHS staff are working flat out, but as this report shows, there simply are not enough hospital beds to meet the huge demands we are seeing in the wake of the pandemic.

“Colleagues working in emergency medicine have been facing ‘winter pressures’ since the summer. Their concerns to avoid ‘corridor care’ are well-founded. An urgent effort is now required to get those patients who are fit to be discharged from hospital back into the community, freeing up beds for patients who need an operation.  We agree with the Royal College of Emergency Medicine that NHS capacity must be expanded, after years of shortages, and repeat our plea to government to increase the number of hospital beds to reach the OECD average [1].  The NHS is staffed by world-leading doctors and nurses - they cannot care for patients properly with a bed base the size of a postage stamp.[2]”

Notes to editors

  1. RCS England’s ‘New Deal for Surgery’ report called on the government to increase the number of hospital beds to reach the OECD average; expanding the number of hospital beds in England from 2.5 to 4.7 per 1,000 population  The full report can be read here.
  2. Official statistics published by NHS England show the number of general and acute hospital beds fell from 110,568 in 2010/11 to 96,998 in 2021/22. NHS England. Bed availability and occupancy data (Q1 2020/21):
  3. The Royal College of Surgeons of England is a professional membership organisation and registered charity. The College provides world-class education, assessment and development to more than 28,000 surgeons, dental professionals and members of the wider surgical and dental care teams, at all stages of their career. The College sets professional standards, facilitates research and champions the best outcomes for patients – with a vision to see excellent surgical care for everyone.
  4. For more information, please contact the RCS England Press Office on: 020 7869 6052/6054; or email:
  • For out-of-hours media enquiries: 020 7869 6056

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