OPERATIONS on cancer and heart patients are being cancelled as the NHS sinks deeper into crisis, it was revealed today.
Campaign group the Patients Association said the government has created “a nightmare” for people desperately needing treatment.
Hospitals had already been told by management body NHS England to postpone non-urgent operations such as hip and knee replacements to free beds for more urgent admissions. But NHS trusts say they are now having to cancel heart and cancer operations too.
Hundreds of patients are being told on the day their operation is due that it is cancelled.
Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said that in December and January 24 cardiac and cancer operations were postponed on the day of surgery or the day before because of a lack of beds in intensive-care units.
University Hospitals Birmingham said it had to cancel 34 cancer operations, 53 cardiac procedures and four heart repairs.
University Hospitals North Midlands medical director Dr John Oxtoby said that “due to severe and sustained pressure on our services” its hospitals had to “prioritise some urgent surgery.”
Chief executive of the Patients’ Association Rachel Power said: “The cancellation of an operation for someone with a life-threatening condition is always deeply undesirable.”
She demanded to know from NHS England if the number of cancelled operations this year was higher than in previous years.
“Delaying surgery in these instances increases the risk to life and is a nightmare for any patient subjected to it,” she said.
National officer of general union GMB Kevin Brandstatter said: “The fact the government has mismanaged this year’s winter crisis so badly that cancer and heart operations are being cancelled is scarcely believable.
“Everyone apart from Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt seemed to see this crisis coming a mile off — it repeats the pattern of previous years.
“Yet instead of properly preparing for it, seriously ill patients now face the nightmare of having their operations cancelled.
“Jeremy Hunt is clearly not up to the job and must step down before the NHS crumbles to dust in front of us.”
A panel of health experts, set up the Lib Dems, suggested today that a new ring-fenced tax to fund the NHS and social care, replacing national insurance, should be introduced.
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