Data shows more than 13,000 planned operations in the NHS have been canceled in the past two months.
The Royal College of Surgeons said the data collected by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) is “alarming” and means thousands of patients have been left in limbo and in pain.
According to data collected for the first time by RCEM, around 6,726 elective care operations were canceled in November, compared to 6,335 in October.
The exact reasons for the cancellation of operations are not clear, although most were canceled by the NHS.
Colleagues working in emergency medicine are facing ‘winter pressure’ since summer
The NHS itself stopped recording the number of jobs canceled due to the pandemic and has just resumed counting.
Professor Neil Mortensen, President of England’s Royal College of Surgeons, said: “It is very alarming that in the last two months more than 13,000 planned operations were cancelled.
“That means thousands of patients who had prepared themselves for significant hip, knee and other types of planned surgery were 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.
“Coworkers working in emergency medicine have been facing ‘winter pressure’ since the summer.
Their concerns to avoid “caress of the aisle” are well-founded.
The NHS employs the world’s leading doctors and nurses – they can’t properly care for patients with a bed base the size of a postage stamp.
“An urgent effort is now needed to bring patients back into the community who are fit to be discharged from the hospital, freeing up beds for patients who need operations.”
Prof Mortensen said that the college agrees with RCEM that the government should increase the number of hospital beds.
“The NHS is staffed by the world’s leading doctors and nurses – they can’t properly care for patients with a bed base the size of a postage stamp,” he said.
An NHS spokesman said: “There is no doubt that the pressure on the NHS is incredibly high, with October having the highest number of 999 calls answered for a month, as well as the major A&A for that time of year. Busy for ES.
“Thanks to the hard work of the staff, alternative treatments continue, patients are prioritized based on their need and the latest figures show 1.3 million patients started alternative treatments in September.”
But Labour’s shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said: “Canceling operations is not enough for thousands of people, they are forced to wait longer, often in pain and discomfort.
“Waiting lists are already at record levels, yet the government has no plans to address the chronic shortage of GPs, doctors, nurses and social care workers.”
A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “We are committed to taking action to ensure that people get the treatment they need, which is why we will be spending an additional £2 billion this year and £8 billion over the next three years.” Billion wait times, and provide an additional nine million checks, scans and operations.
“We are ensuring that our record investments have a lasting impact and address healthcare disparities by deploying more efficient, innovative ways of working, including opening new surgical hubs and at least 100 community diagnostics centers over the next three years. It helps in making the investigation quicker and more convenient.”