Bacteria outbreak has stopped 183 operations

Glenda Cooper talks to those affected by delays in treatment
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"Go bananas," advised Carol, a 61-year-old pensioner. "And threaten to sue." In her eyes, it is the only way to avoid operations being cancelled.

Her husband had a hernia operation cancelled three times at Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridgeshire, with an average waiting time of six weeks between readmittances.

"One time I bought him in at 8am. He even had the marks on his tummy where they were going to cut, and then they sent him home. I went bananas and threatened to sue Addenbrooke's, and they said that if my doctor rang in they could get him in on the next list, which they did. He was in within three weeks. In this world you've just got to stand up for yourself."

Addenbrooke's Hospital, founded in 1766 and seen last month on the BBC's Hospital Watch, had the worst record for admission of patients within a month of cancelled non- emergency operations. It blamed the "exceptionally high number" of cancelled operations - 183 - on persistent outbreaks of MRSA bacteria, which is resistant to many antibiotics. If a patient is seriously ill, it can attack the immune system.

Addenbrooke's chief executive, John Ashbourne, said: "It is very depressing that outbreaks of the MRSA infection have caused delays in treatment and the cancellation of many operations. I would like to apologise unreservedly to anyone who has been inconvenienced." Four wards have been closed to new admissions for up to nine weeks because of the infection.

Sitting next to Carol outside the outpatients' department, Jane Roberts had a similar experience. "I was in for a hysterectomy and I'd been given the pre-meds, and then at 5pm they sent me home. I'd been there all day but they'd run out of operating time." Mrs Roberts was more fortunate than Carol's husband. She had her operation three weeks later.

Sarah, 26, who had had to wait more than two years for a back operation, was less sympa- thetic. "Doctors are just too worried about private patients. If you've got the money they'll do it straight away."