News ID: 233424
Published: 1201 GMT October 27, 2018

Record number of children's operations canceled last year

Record number of children's operations canceled last year

A record number of 18,647 emergency and nonemergency children’s operations were canceled in the UK last year, according to new figures which Labour described as a ‘shameful’ indictment of the government’s handling of healthcare.

Over the last eight years 117,936 children’s operations were canceled, according to data obtained by the party from National Health Service (NHS) trusts under the Freedom of Information Act, reported.

Operations for broken bones, breast cancer and acute tonsillitis were among those canceled last year in a 58-percent increase on 2011-12, when there were 11,821 cancelations.

The figures were described as ‘concerning’ by the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), which they said highlighted the need for a comprehensive children and young people’s health strategy.

Dr. Dougal Hargreaves of the RCPCH said, “We want to see an NHS that is tailored and responsive to the needs of infants, children and young people, ensuring that they get the care they need, when they need it — operations or otherwise.

“This will be hugely difficult to achieve, however, without significant expansion in the child health workforce.”

In a joint statement Richard Stewart, the president of the British Association of Pediatric Surgeons, and Eric Nicholls, the chair of the Children’s Surgical Forum at the Royal College of Surgeons, described the figures as of ‘deep concern’.

They said their organizations “first began to recognize this increasing pressure on children’s surgery in 2006”, adding, “Pressures are particularly bad over the busy winter months as beds are more occupied with winter flu-affected children. We also have less beds available due to reduced resources — beds and staff — as a result of the financial pressures the NHS has faced over recent years.

“Having an operation canceled is stressful for children and their families. Alongside practical considerations such as wasted time off school and work, children and their families have to deal with the mental anguish of preparing for surgery all over again. The majority of canceled children’s operations are rescheduled soon after they were due to take place.”

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, called on British Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond to act in Monday’s budget to reverse what he described as the devastating cuts to public health services that were setting children’s health back.

“Behind each of these cancelations is a sick child and their loved ones facing unnecessary distress for entirely avoidable reasons,” he added.

“These canceled operations risk harming children further in the long term and it’s shameful that cancelations have reached this level.

“The fact that thousands of children’s operations — including for broken bones, removing rotten teeth, eye surgery and even breast cancer — have had to be canceled on this scale reveals yet again an NHS pushed to the brink by the Tories.”

The highest number of canceled operations for any trust between 2011-12 and 2017-18 was 46,151, at Great Ormond Street hospital NHS foundation trust.

A Great Ormond Street spokesperson said, “As one of the leading pediatric centers in the UK, Great Ormond Street hospital treats some of the most complex and rare cases. This can often mean operations are canceled because patients are not well enough to undergo operations or have to cancel due to complex circumstances at home.”

The hospital added that for the year 2016-17, the trust reported 725 cancelations on the day for nonclinical reasons, representing just 1.8 percent of its elective admissions for that year.

The Department of Health and Social Care said, “There are 2.1 million more operations taking place a year than in 2010, and hospitals continue to do everything they can to keep last-minute cancelations to a minimum.

“The NHS long-term plan, together with our historic funding commitment for the health service, will see frontline services improve and put the health service on a long-term sustainable footing, backed by an extra £20 billion a year by 2023-24.”



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