Cancelled operations during Christmas total more than 300 a day as NHS bed crisis worsens

The lack of beds and medical staff has been blamed for cancellations

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The critical shortage of National Health Service hospital beds has led to the cancellation of more than 300 operations a day during the run-up to Christmas, official figures show.

Surgeons were forced to postpone planned procedures 3,113 times in the first two weeks of December, which averages out to 311 per working day, The Sunday Times reports.

Shadow health secretary, Andy Burnham, said in a statement today: “This is yet another sign that, under David Cameron, the NHS is simply not working.”

“The chaos in A&E is spreading through the NHS. Hospitals are in danger of becoming overwhelmed as the Government takes social care away from older people and makes it harder to see a GP. These cancellations help to explain why operation waiting lists are at a six-year high,” he added.

The number of patients having to reschedule operations within the following 28 days is around 50% higher than the same period of time two years ago and up by 16% on last year. Bedford Hospital cancelled every routine operation scheduled for the Thursday before Christmas as medics struggled with demand.

 

Two of David Cameron’s advisors – Sir Jeremy Heywood, Britain’s most senior civil servant, and Oliver Letwin, the minister in charge of Conservative policy – have been drafted in preparation for the next general election in May to oversee how medics cope over the busy winter season.

Another 161 urgent life- or limb-saving operations were cancelled in the first half of December, up from 138 last year. A record of 159,054 emergency patients were admitted in the first half of the month, compared to 150,482 during the same time in 2013.

The damning report comes after Chancellor George Osborne promised in the Autumn Statement that the Conservatives will inject £2 billion of extra funding into the NHS. It has been revealed that £750m of that amount has already been in use and will be re-allocated from within the Department of Health.

NHS mental health departments are also under immense strain after a 16-year-old girl had to be held in a police cell for two nights after she was sectioned a month ago due to a chronic shortage of free space in hospitals.

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Assistant Chief Constable Paul Netherton publicised the chronic lack of NHS beds

Labour said the huge rise in the number of cancelled operations was a fresh sign that “chaos in A&E is spreading through the NHS” and has criticised NHS England for choosing not to publish performance data over the festive period, in usual Friday reports, in what the party called “a news blackout”.

The Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) echoed the Department of Health by saying that the operations were axed because gaps in community care meant that too many people were visiting casualty wards unnecessarily and were then taking up vital beds, The Sunday Times reported.

The Health Education England report, to be published in the new year, shows that almost one in 10 A&E consultant posts is unfilled. Chris Hopson, chief executive of the Foundation Trust Network, said the country was “under-funding the NHS for the amount of care we are asking it to provide”, which is £30 billion short of what it is reported to need by 2020.

Mr Burnham added: “Labour will rescue the NHS with £2.5 billion extra each year - over and above Tory plans - to invest in a new workforce, including 20,000 extra nurses and 8,000 GPs.

“People can see the NHS has gone downhill under this Government. It shows you can't trust the Tories with it. This is why the NHS is set to be a decisive issue at the election.”

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