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Cancelled operations: Medway NHS Foundation Trust cancels three times more surgery

By Jenni Horn

The number of urgent operations cancelled in Medway has more than trebled since 2015.

Medway NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the Medway Maritime Hospital in Gillingham, cancelled 57 urgent operations in 2017, with 21 of those being postponed on at least two separate occasions.

The summer months saw the highest number of potentially life-saving surgery procedures cancelled – 12 and nine in August and July respectively.

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The number of operations cancelled has trebled
The number of operations cancelled has trebled

NHS England data, compiled by the Local Democracy Reporter Service, shows the number of cancelled urgent operations stood at just 15 in 2015 before rising suddenly to 45 in 2016.

Urgent operations, as defined by the National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death, include immediate life, limb and organ saving intervention, as well as surgery for those with acute onset or deterioration of conditions which threaten life, limb or organ survival.

Patients requiring early intervention where the condition is not an immediate threat, and would normally undergo surgery within days of a decision to operate, are also classified as urgent.

Official data implies there were no urgent operations cancelled in 2012, although the trust did not respond to requests for further information relating to anomaly.

The trust says surgery can be cancelled for a variety of reasons – such as health condition changes or when patients cancel the operation – but only do so when it is “impossible to avoid”.

Medway Maritime Hospital
Medway Maritime Hospital

Ben Stevens, executive director of clinical operations at Medway NHS Foundation Trust, added: “Any operation that appears at risk of not going ahead is discussed with the clinical team and, where possible, resources (are) reallocated to ensure it goes ahead.

“We recognise the impact, disruption and concern to patients when their procedure is cancelled and we always aim to rebook these patients on the next available date.

"We will always give such patients priority over non-urgent and non-cancer patients. “We are continually working to make our theatres more effective.

"One of our most substantial service improvement projects currently underway at the trust is our theatre improvement programme, which is looking at how we schedule surgeries more efficiently and make the most of our surgical and theatre teams to see more patients more quickly.”

The Medway NHS Foundation Trust finished bottom of a patient satisfaction survey last year, based on a questionnaire conducted by the Care Quality Commission in July 2016. Trust bosses say improvements have been made since the review was carried out.

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