More than 1,300 people have their non-emergency operations cancelled at Norfolk’s biggest hospital

General view of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital at Colney; April 2009; NNUH / Hospital /

General view of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital at Colney; April 2009; NNUH / Hospital / Colney / Parking / A & E; Picture: James Bass; Copy: Rebecca Gough; For: EN News; Evening News © 2009 (01603) 772434 - Credit: Evening News © 2009

Increasing numbers of patients needing urgent treatment has contributed to a rise of non-emergency operations being cancelled at the last minute.

More than 2,000 patients arriving at hospitals across Norfolk and Suffolk were told their procedure had been scrapped, new figures show.

Ian Kennedy, who waited seven hours for an operation at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (N&N) only to be told it was cancelled, said it was a 'big inconvenience'.

Hospital chiefs said an increase in emergency patients meant there were fewer beds available, meaning people scheduled for 'elective operations' – such as hernias and cataracts – have nowhere to recover, so the operation has to be cancelled.

By far the highest amount of such operations cancelled in 2015/16 was at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the N&N and Cromer hospitals.

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The trust cancelled 1,361 operations, an increase from 1,232 in 2014/15 –despite the number of operations carried out decreasing in the same timeframe. However emergency admissions rose from 70,662 to 76,401.

This rise was the main reason for a 6.3pc increase in cancelled operations across Norfolk's hospitals in 15/16, with both the James Paget and Queen Elizabeth hospitals marginally reducing their number.

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In total, the three hospitals cancelled 1,889 operations in 2015/16, a 47.9pc rise from 2013/14.

Bosses at the West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds cancelled 311 operations in 15/16, increasing the overall number across the region up to 2,210.

The figure counts operations that are cancelled for non-clinical reasons by the hospital on the day the patient was due to arrive at hospital, after the patient has arrived, or on the day of the operation or surgery.

Non-clinical reasons can range from ward beds, theatre staff, or surgeons being unavailable, or equipment failure and administration errors.

The figures are not thought to include operations cancelled due to this year's junior doctors' strike.

In addition, one in six patients across Norfolk's hospitals did not have their operation within 28 days of the first cancellation, which is a breach of the NHS constitution.

The issue has been a particular problem at the N&N and Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn (QEH).

A spokesman for the QEH said it had put in place a new 'management process' to minimise the number of patients waiting longer than 28 days after cancellation for their operation.

A N&N spokesman said the trust was working closely with community and social care partners to reduce the number of 'bed-blockers'which would free up more beds.

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