27th December 2016
By Julia Penhaligon

Surgery at the Royal Cornwall Hospital, Truro, had to be cancelled 769 times last year because of bed shortages, the hospital has disclosed.

The figures, covering the period October 2015-September 2016, do not reveal the number of patients who had to be sent home after admission to the hospital.

The data also does not show the total number of operations cancelled or rescheduled for other reasons.  The 769 number relates only to elective surgery cancelled because a hospital bed was not available.

The data goes to the heart of the debate over the relationship between a single, large, central hospital and the nature of social care available in the community.  Health and council officials are currently consulting on a radical shake-up of healthcare as they try to devise a Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) designed to save more than £220 million in “efficiency savings.”  This would still leave a shortfall of £56 million, according to the NHS, and has raised a question mark over the future of Cornwall’s community hospitals.


The problem is not confined to Cornwall, as the government chose Christmas Eve to release figures which showed that the number of NHS patients in England who had urgent operations cancelled had almost doubled in a year.

Opposition parties seized on the figures as evidence of how social care is underfunded.  The number of urgent operations cancelled in November climbed to 446, from 357 in October.   In November last year there were 243 such operations cancelled.

NHS England confirmed that the November 2016 figure was the highest since such records began to be kept six years ago.

Health campaigners in Cornwall complain that the STP “consultation” is merely a public relations exercise, designed to hide plans to sell off community hospitals.

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