Operations cancelled at Norwich hospital as emergency beds put in day surgery wards

The NNUH is looking at ways to increase operating capacity. It has a "temporary" operating theatre a

The NNUH is looking at ways to increase operating capacity. It has a "temporary" operating theatre attatched to the day procedure unit. Left to right, Anna Lipp (consultant anaethetist), James Greaves (clinical leader in the day procedure unit) and Richard Parker (chief operating officer) pictured in 2015. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Patients had operations cancelled because a hospital was so short of beds it had to use wards meant for day surgery for emergency patients instead.

Until last week, the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital was using its day procedure unit, where patients have minor surgery, to house patients staying overnight and in emergencies.

It meant the capacity of the operating theatres was reduced because patients coming in for surgery the next day could not be seen until recovery rooms for the theatres had been cleared of beds, according to one source.

That led to more patients having operations cancelled.

The number of cancelled operations peaked in February at 267 - around 10 a day, the latest month figures are available for.

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The hospital said 60pc of cancelled operations that month were because of the bad weather, but overall in 2017/18 the biggest reason for the 1,157 cancelled operations were a lack of capacity at operating theatres and bed shortages. There were around 15pc fewer day operations carried out than planned in February.

The hospital confirmed it was using the day procedure unit (DPU) as an 'escalation area' until April 11 because of high demand over winter.

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But chief operating officer Richard Parker said: 'We have been really effective at maintaining the day case programme during the winter period.

'Cancelling a patient's elective surgery is never an easy decision and we recognise the impact it can have on patients and their families. We have made a great effort to reduce cancelled operations but sometimes this situation is unavoidable due to patients needing emergency admission.'

Despite fewer operations being carried out this February than the previous two years, the DPU still carried out 3,500 procedures in December, January and February, Mr Parker said.

The hospital has been looking for years at increasing surgery capacity. In December 2015 it attached a mobile operating theatre to the DPU, which it said at the time was temporary.

It is still in place now more than two years later but Mr Parker said it was still 'temporary'. 'We are looking at various options to increase our theatre capacity,' he added.

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