Nearly 15,000 operations on children were canceled last year, data suggests

Nearly 15,000 child operations were canceled last year, partly due to a lack of staff and beds, an analysis suggests.

Data collected under freedom of information laws by the Liberal Democrats shows 14,628 operations were canceled in 2022, up from 11,870 the previous year and the highest number in the last five years.

Some 77 NHS hospital trusts in England provided the data, which showed 59,566 operations have been canceled since 2018.

Almost 4,000 cancellations last year were due to lack of beds, 59% more than the previous year.

Some 2,894 child operations were canceled due to lack of personnel, 52% more than the previous year.

Meanwhile, 446 were canceled due to equipment problems and 1,100 were axed due to lack of theater time on the day or because the lists were full.

The data suggests long waits for an operation included a child at Ipswich and Colchester hospitals, who waited a year and 62 days for a pediatric procedure, according to the trust.

Sir Ed Davey
Sir Ed Davey (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Other long waits for individual child patients were at Leicester General (1,083 days) and Hull University Teaching Hospitals (1,008 days), according to FOI data.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said: “The shocking scale of canceled child operations is a mark of shame on this Conservative government.

“Behind these figures are countless children and parents who have to wait in pain and anguish.

“Years of neglect by this government have led to chronic staff shortages and a lack of hospital beds, with communities across the country paying the price.

“The local elections in May are an opportunity to send a message to this disengaged Conservative government that enough is enough.

“We need a rescue plan now to get local health services back.”

Saffron Cordery, Deputy Chief Executive of NHS Providers, said: “Trusted leaders are well aware that too many children are waiting too long for the care they need due to significant shortages of beds, staff and equipment.

“We are seeing severe pressures on children’s services across the health and care system.

“Mental health referrals, including for children and youth, are at an all-time high and there are also long waits for speech and language therapy, physical therapy and other key community services, including those for neurological needs such as autism and ADHD. .

“It is really important that children and young people receive timely treatment given their developmental needs, but also to avoid requiring more care in the future.”

A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “Reducing waiting lists is one of the Prime Minister’s five priorities.

“The NHS has already virtually eliminated waits of more than two years for treatment, while waits of 18 months have been reduced by more than 80% since the peak in September 2021.

“We also opened 94 new community diagnostic centers that have performed more than 3.5 million tests, checks and scans since July 2021, helping patients to be diagnosed and access treatment more quickly.

“At the same time, we are increasing the healthcare workforce – we are on track to add 50,000 more nurses to the NHS by next year and have almost reached our target of adding an additional 26,000 primary care staff.

“The NHS will publish a long-term workforce plan shortly to support and grow the workforce.”


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