Cancer ops delayed by A&E pressures

By Ian Dipple Friday 07 March 2014 Updated: 07/03 15:33

OPERATIONS for cancer patients have had to be cancelled for the first time because of mounting pressure on the county’s A&E departments.

Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust missed six of its eight cancer targets in January including one stating 85 per cent of patients should be treated within 62 days of an urgent referral by a GP, with only 82.41 per cent dealt with within that time.

Trust bosses say the failure is a result of the increasing pressure through accident emergency departments - with demand up 15 per cent in January - tying up beds which should be used for those recovering from surgery. The pressure shows no sign of easing during February with demand seven per cent higher than the same time last year.

As a result scores of operations have had to be cancelled including those for cancer patients - the first time that has happened as a direct result of pressure caused by emergency admissions, since the Trust formed 14 years ago.

Among those affected was a Redditch man diagnosed with a bladder tumour in December who was due to have surgery at the Alexandra Hospital on Wednesday, February 12 but on arrival at 10.30am he was told there were no beds available. The 55-year-old, who did not want to be named, went home but was recalled an hour later and waited until 6.30pm to be told the operation was cancelled. It was eventually carried out two weeks later.

Stewart Messer, the Trust’s chief operating officer, told a recent board meeting part of the problem was over Christmas and New Year some patients had chosen to delay their surgery which meant when hospitals were under pressure in January they were unable to treat them.

“We have a window to treat them in and if that’s the second week of January when this crescendo of activity is taking its fiercest grip there simply isn’t the beds,” he said.

“For the first time ever we had to defer some cancer patients in January due to the pressures. My gut feeling is a lot more positive about February.”

He added they were still on track to meet the majority of cancer targets for the year so far.

“Every single patient is put on a board and the team are tracking that patient through every stage of their treatment. Nobody is taking their eye off this, there’s no loss of grip, it’s purely and simply an alignment of outside forces that have caused this.”

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