FOI reveals the Conservatives’ damage to the NHS as thousands of operations are cancelled due to staff shortages and equipment failures
New data obtained by Labour through FOIs has revealed a huge increase in the number of cancelled operations because of staffing issues and equipment failures.
Last year, 78,981 operations were cancelled. These operations were either classed as urgent or were elective operations cancelled at the last minute – either on the day the patient was due to arrive in hospital or after they had already arrived.
The number of operations cancelled because of staffing issues and equipment failures have each increased by a third in two years. Last year, 10,900 were cancelled because of staffing issues and 4800 were cancelled because of equipment failures.
There are currently over 100,000 staff vacancies in the NHS, with shortages of 10,000 doctors and 43,000 nurses. Cuts to NHS Capital Budgets have left the health service with a £6.5 billion repair bill.
Labour sent FOI requests to all acute hospital trusts in England to ask them to provide the total number of operations cancelled for non-clinical reasons, broken down by the cause of the cancellation. 82 per cent of hospital trusts responded.
Jonathan Ashworth MP, Labour’s Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary, said:
“That so many more people in pain and distress are forced to endure cancelled operations, including increasingly on the day they were supposed to have treatment, is a shameful indictment of a decade of Tory cutbacks running our NHS into the ground.
“The simple truth is under the Tories, patients wait longer and longer for vital care. This general election is about the future of the NHS and ensuring quality care for all.
“Labour will fully fund our NHS, recruit the doctors and nurses we need and safeguard our NHS from a Trump deal sell off that could cost the NHS £500 million a week.”
Notes to Editors
Number of operations cancelled due to staffing issues and equipment failures
|YEAR||Staffing issues||Equipment failures|
Source: Labour Party FOI
The number of operations cancelled as a result of staffing issues increased from8,231 in 2016/17 to 10,909 in 2018/19.
The number of operations cancelled as a result of equipment failures jumped from3,739 in 2016/17 to 4,858 in 2018/19.
Total Number of Cancelled Operations (last minute elective cancellations and urgent)
Source: Labour Party FOI
- Examples of non-clinical reasons can be lack of beds, staffing shortages, adverse weather, equipment problems, booking/admin errors.
- This data included elective operations cancelled at last minute (last minute means on the day the patient was due to arrive, after the patient has, after the patient has arrived in hospital or on the day of the operation or surgery.)
- It also included cancelled urgent operations. The definition of an urgent operation is a lifesaving, limb or organ saving intervention and acute onset or deterioration of conditions that threaten life, limb.
Critical Care Bed Capacity and Urgent Operations Cancelled, Definitions and Guidance,
These findings come at a time when the Tories are missing key performance targets month after month
- In August there were 4.41 million people on the waiting list in England, the highest on record – this target hasn’t been met since February 2016
- Last year there were 2.9 million people waiting longer than four hours in A&E and the four hour A&E waiting time target hasn’t been met since July 2015
- The 62 day cancer waiting time target hasn’t been met since December 2015 and last year there were over 34,000 people waiting longer than 62 days to start cancer treatment.
Source: NHS England, Combined Performance Summary,https://www.england.nhs.uk/statistics/statistical-work-areas/combined-performance-summary/
- Earlier this year, the Labour released research highlighting the crumbling state of our hospitals. The research revealed ward ceilings falling in, sewage pipes bursting treatment and surgery delayed. We have some of the lowest numbers of MRI and CT scanners and per head and the NHS is failing to meet its targets on diagnostics.
- Recent data published by NHS Digital shows that the repair bill (backlog maintenance) in the NHS now stands at £6.5 billion, up from £6bn last year.
- £3.4 billion of the repair bill is classed as “high or significant risk”.
- NHS Capital Budget – that funds investment in buildings, beds, equipment and IT – is lower today in real terms than 2010/11. The Tories have repeatedly cut capital budgets in total over £4 billion in recent years through ‘smash and grab’ raids to transfer money to the day to day running of the NHS.
- The repair bill is compromising patient care. Labour research has revealed ward ceilings falling in, sewage pipes bursting treatment and surgery delayed. We have some of the lowest numbers of MRI and CT scanners and per head and the NHS is failing to meet its targets on diagnostics.
Source: NHS Digital Estates Return Information Collection (ERIC) 2018/19, Table 10
|England||costs (£ millions)|
|Total cost to eradicate backlog1||£6,457.9|
|Cost to eradicate high risk backlog||£1,095.0|
|Cost to eradicate significant risk backlog||£2,313.6|
|Cost to eradicate moderate risk backlog||£2,095.9|
|Cost to eradicate low risk backlog||£953.4|
|Source: NHS Digital Estates Return Information Collection (ERIC)|