HUNDREDS of cancer operations were cancelled during the NHS winter crisis, meaning that for some patients, by the time they are treated, their cancer may have spread. More than 530 lifesaving procedures were cancelled by the NHS due to bed shortages despite Tory PM May insisting that it was only ‘non-urgent operations which would be cancelled.’
At the time, NHS England vowed that cancer operations were exempt and would go ahead.
Hospitals across England were instructed to delay pre-planned operations and routine outpatient appointments throughout January due to severe winter pressures. However, a poll of 81 acute NHS trusts by the Health Service Journal (HSJ) found more than half were forced to cancel at least one cancer operation between December and February, with 530 scrapped in total.
More than half the big NHS trusts admitted cancelling cancer ops, with 43 out of 81 blaming ‘winter pressures’. Official data showed 62,000 fewer procedures of all kinds were carried out compared with the previous year.
Ian Eardley, of the Royal College of Surgeons, said it was ‘very concerning and unacceptable. ‘Any delay in an operation can be extremely distressing for patients and their families. ‘The type of cancer a patient has, and the length of delay in them receiving treatment, will be relevant to how it may impact their overall outcome.’
Macmillan Cancer Support said the delays to some procedures could have affected patients’ survival chances. Macmillan’s executive director of policy and impact, Fran Woodard, told the HSJ: ‘Depending on the type of operation, a delay could mean that the cancer not only progresses in that time, but that the chances of survival are also affected.’