50,000 operations cancelled by NHS

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The Independent Online
More than 50,000 NHS operations were cancelled at the last minute in the last full year for which figures are available, the Labour Party said yesterday.

The rise - which saw a 12 per cent increase in cancellations in the first three-quarters of last year - follows the steady rise in emergency hospital admissions in recent years.

In almost 4,000 cases, the NHS also failed to honour the Patient's Charter promise that patients whose operations are cancelled should be admitted within a month - a performance, however, marginally better than in the same period the preceding year.

Alan Milburn, Labour's health spokesman, who obtained the figures from Parliamentary answers, said they showed that under the Conservatives "patients can no longer be sure of treatment, even when they have been promised it".

The Department of Health said the total was just 0.01 per cent of the 5 million operations performed annually.

The figures come as an article in the British Medical Journal warns that the unexplained rise in emergency admission "may threaten quality of care".

Thus far, Simon Capewell, a public health lecturer at Glasgow University said, "the NHS has usually coped". But each year managers were being expected "to treat more with less" and the increasing efficiency may narrow safety margins.