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Number of cancelled operations in Kent

By Ellis Stephenson

The number of planned non-emergency operations in Kent cancelled at the last minute grew by nearly 300 in 12 months, data has shown.

There were 1,761 'elective surgeries' called off in 2016-17, an increase of 281 when compared to 2015-16 which saw 1,480 cancellations in trusts across the county.

The worst affected were patients at East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust, which recorded 578 total last minute cancellations, up from 443 the year before.

The number of cancelled operations grew in 2016-17, compared to 2015-16. Stock picture
The number of cancelled operations grew in 2016-17, compared to 2015-16. Stock picture

Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust cancelled 521 surgeries in the last full year, up from 362.

Medway NHS Foundation Trust was the only trust to have a fall with 405 operations called off. The year before it halted 419.

The trust with the least cancellations, Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust, stopped 257 compared to 256 in 2015-16.

These figures, released by NHS England, count the number of procedures called off on the day a patient was due to arrive, after they had arrived or on the day of their operation for non-clinical reasons.

Some of the reasons why an operation can be cancelled include a bed or surgeon being unavailable, equipment failure and admin errors.

A spokesman for the East Kent Hospitals said of the findings: "East Kent Hospitals is the largest acute trust in Kent and Medway and treats 94,000 in-patients across five sites.

"In proportion to the number of patients we treat, the number of non-clinical cancellations is very small - 578 in total, which equates to 1.4% of the total number of 40,781 operations carried out in 2016/17.

"Even though these numbers are small, they are important to us and we do all we can to keep them to a minimum."

Once an 'elective operation' has been cancelled at the last minute, the hospital has to reschedule so the patient does not have to wait any longer than 28 days for their treatment.

The number of breaches of the '28 day rule' are also recorded with 116 recorded in 2016-17, up from 81 in the year before for the whole of the county.

In 2016-17 East Kent Hospitals had the most last minute elective surgery cancellations, according to NHS England. Picture: Thinkstock
In 2016-17 East Kent Hospitals had the most last minute elective surgery cancellations, according to NHS England. Picture: Thinkstock

In 2016-17 the East Kent Hospitals was the worst offender with 44 breaches, Medway had 37, Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells had 25 and Dartford and Gravesend had 10.

But it looks as if the trend is here to stay with the first two quarters of 2017-18 data also being released.

This shows until last September there were 251 cancellations in East Kent Hospitals and 28 patients who were not treated within 28 days.

Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells had 170 cancellations in the same period and 14 breaches, 119 operations called off and four breaches at Medway and Dartford, and Gravesham had 84 last minute cancellations but no breaches of the 28-day rule.

The figures do not include the busy period over Christmas and new year where many hospitals were put on the highest level of alert.

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