Did the junior doctors’ strike lead to more operations being cancelled at the last minute at the Countess of Chester Hospital?
There were 162 last minute cancellations of elective operations at the Countess from January to March, up 28% on the previous year, and the highest number in 10 years.
Across England, there were 23,180 elective operations - a planned, likely non-urgent procedure - cancelled for non-clinical reasons on the day it was due to take place from January to March 2016.
This was the second highest number of last minute cancellations since records began in 1994 and the highest number since 24,976 from January to March 2001.
At neighbouring Mid Cheshire hospitals, there were 152 elective operations cancelled for non-clinical reasons on the day it was due to take place from January to March 2016.
This was the highest number of last minute cancellations in 10 years, and 124% higher than in quarter four 2014/15, when there were 68 cancellations, one of the biggest increases in England.
The number of urgent operations cancelled for a second or subsequent time during the period also nearly doubled to its highest rate in more than five years, according to figures from NHS England.
Last minute cancellation numbers for elective operations were 13% higher than in quarter four 2014/15, when there were 20,464 cancellations.
The number of elective operations cancelled at the last minute made up 1.19% of all elective operations scheduled for the period, the highest proportion cancelled in more than 10 years.
When a patient’s operation is cancelled by the hospital at the last minute for non clinical reasons, the hospital will have to offer another binding date within a maximum of the next 28 days or fund the patient’s treatment at the time and hospital of the patient’s choice.
There were 1,849 patients who were not treated within 28 days of their operation being cancelled, the highest number 2005/06. This represented 8% of all cancelled elective operations, which is lower than 8.7% in the same quarter in 2014/15.
During the same quarter, 1,017 urgent operations, those that need to be carried out because delay could lead to a threat to life, limbs or organs, were cancelled, which was lower than 1,080 cancelled in the same three months in 2014/15.
However, there were 61 urgent operations cancelled for a second or subsequent time in January to March this year, the highest number since records began in 2010, and nearly double the previous high of 33 in the previous three months.
Junior doctors went on strike on January 12, February 10 and March 9 and 10, withdrawing from providing all care except emergency services. As a result hospitals may have been more likely to cancel non-urgent operations due to staff being on strike and remaining staff needed in other departments.
Junior doctors also took strike action on April 6 and 7 and April 26 and 27, but figures for the numbers of cancelled operations during April have not yet been released.
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