More than 100,000 operations were cancelled at English hospitals last year, according to figures revealed recently. This was almost twice the number officially reported by the Department of Health, where for some strange reason a cancellation more than 24 hours in advance does not count in the figures!
More than 7,000 patients had operations cancelled more than once for non-clinical reasons, according to data collated by the Conservative Party.
Health executives blame patients' missing medical notes, bed shortages, staff absences and equipment failures.
NHS critics say the cancellations were an example of the 'increasingly cavalier' standards of treatment for patients.
Critics blame Government targets and claim trusts have postponed a range of routine procedures in an attempt to tackle their debts.
The scale of the cancellations was revealed by Freedom of Information data from 124 NHS trusts.
Shadow health spokesman Andrew Lansley says: “NHS staff are doing the best they can, but how can they plan patients' care properly when they are continually hampered by Labour's topdown targets?”
LibDem health spokesman Norman Lamb says the figures are “another sign of the unsustainable pressure the NHS is under”.
The data showed 77,302 operations in total were cancelled for non-clinical reasons at the 124 trusts in 2007-2008.
If this figure was extrapolated across all 171 trusts in England, it would give a total of about 105,000 operations.
This is far higher than the official figure, which only counts operations cancelled 24 hours before surgery is due. According to the Department of Health, 57,350 surgical procedures were scrapped in 2007-2008 - up 14 per cent from the 50,505 cancelled when Labour came to power.
Kingston Hospital in Surrey cancelled the most operations, with 10,351. The trust also had the highest number of patients whose surgery was cancelled more than once - 2,071.
It was followed by York Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in North Yorkshire, which cancelled 7,236 operations. More than 1,300 patients had their surgery postponed at least twice.
Other poor performers included Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals (3,652 operations cancelled), Bedford Hospitals (3,047) and Dartford & Gravesham NHS Trust in Kent (2,587).
One patient had an operation cancelled by Plymouth Hospitals nine times. A patient at Kingston was let down eight times and one at York had surgery postponed six times.
Around a third of trusts cancelled an operation for the same patient three times or more.
Private medical insurance: News update: August 2008