Hospital patients warned to expect non-urgent operation delays

Patients at hospitals in England, including University Hospital of Hartlepool, pictured, will be contacted if their appointments are to be delayed.
Patients at hospitals in England, including University Hospital of Hartlepool, pictured, will be contacted if their appointments are to be delayed.

Hospital patients could face disruption this month – with many pre-planned operations and routine appointments to be delayed.

NHS England has told hospitals across the country to delay operations and procedures until January 31 because of winter pressures.

Each hospital is different so they can choose how they do this and our region’s hospital trusts will try to minimise disruption

Dr Stuart Findlay

It comes as part of a bid to try to free up hospital staff and beds, with the deferral of non-urgent inpatient elective care – including hip replacements – also extended until the end of the month.

North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust is expected to see some of its planned operations postponed.

Dr Stuart Findlay, co-chair of the North East and Cumbria Urgent and Emergency Care Network, which represents all NHS organisations, said: “Each hospital is different so they can choose how they do this and our region’s hospital trusts will try to minimise disruption to those patients with non urgent planned operations when making their decisions.

“It’s very important that patients with planned operations, procedures or outpatient appointments should attend as normal unless they are specifically contacted by their hospital and asked not to. Only those patients contacted directly will have appointments delayed and these will be rearranged. Cancer diagnosis and treatment appointments will not be delayed.

“Any patients who do have a hospital appointment delayed, and feel their condition is getting worse, should contact their GP in the first instance for support.”

Officials have estimated that up to 55,000 operations could be deferred across the country. NHS England has also announced that sanctions for mixed-sex accomodation breaches will be temporarily lifted, with current NHS rules stating men and women should be treated on different wards.

The Patients’ Association say it is ‘clear’ patients will lose out.

John Kell, head of policy at the Patients’ Association, said: “NHS England’s decision to defer elective surgery throughout January and authorise the use of mixed sex wards is a sign of how hard winter pressures are hitting the NHS this year.

“Combined with regular first-hand reports of worsening conditions in hospitals, including growing numbers of patients being treated on trolleys in corridors, it is clear how badly patients are losing out.

“Ministers must be accountable for this winter’s crisis. It has long been obvious that all but the very mildest winter pressures would stretch the NHS mightily, and so it has proved.

“Objectively, the NHS’s performance and offer to patients are stronger now than they were 15 years ago or more, but the experiences of patients at times like this do not reflect that.”