Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

London Cancelled Ops Soar; 1,000 Are Called off at the Last Minute Every Single Month

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

London Cancelled Ops Soar; 1,000 Are Called off at the Last Minute Every Single Month

Article excerpt

Byline: REBECCA SMITH

MORE than 1,000 operations are being cancelled at the last minute every month in London.

The number of procedures being called off has risen by 12 per cent in the last year, according to the latest figures.

The scale of the problem emerged as the political battle over a pensioner's shoulder surgery deepened.

Health Secretary John Reid was today facing claims that he deliberately misrepresented Tory health policies in a bid to defuse the row over Margaret Dixon, whose operation was cancelled seven times.

Labour spin doctors have tried to limit the damage by presenting the pensioner's case as exceptional.

But figures obtained by the Standard show that thousands of Londoners have suffered similar experiences.

The number of cancellations rose from 2,737 between October and December 2003 to 3,096 for the same period in 2004.

Performance varied enormously from one hospital to another, with some trusts significantly reducing cancellations. The Department of Health says thousands more operations are now being carried out - making more cancellations "inevitable".

However, patient groups question why so many procedures are still being called off at the last minute when so much money is being invested in the health service.

Conservative London Assembly member Bob Blackman, who uncovered the figures, said: "The Government has been hurling staggering sums of money at the NHS, but instead of value for money London taxpayers are having to stomach a 12 per cent increase in operation cancellations.

How long do they have to wait before things get better?"

Labour regards its record on the NHS as a big vote winner - believing most people are wary of Tory health policies.

Both Prime Minister Tony Blair and Dr Reid have repeatedly said they would be "delighted" if the NHS becomes the key battleground of the general election.

However, by focusing on the record investment into the service, Labour risks difficult questions about its continuing shortcomings.

Today patient groups said cancelled operations posed one of the most pressing problems.

Rosie Newbigging, London Regional Manager of the Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health, said: "The human cost of delayed operations is prolonged suffering and disappointment for patients. …

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