A WOMAN who has had her operation cancelled twice in a month with only hours to go wants an investigation into urgent care pressures at Hereford County Hospital.
Amanda Simmons, 42, from Ross-Wye saw her surgery stopped as the hospital struggled to cope with emergency demand.
Now, she's calling for an "open investigation" into how the hospital came to be under such severe pressure over urgent care.
Cancelled operations are a symptom of that pressure and felt most immediately in the number of patient beds available.
Around 120 operations were cancelled in May alone, up from 113 in April.
Catching up on operations increases the strain on the hospital’s stretched budgets as surgery is shifted to the private sector and relating saving programmes fail to deliver.
Wye Valley NHS Trust (WVT) has set a deficit of £9m within its present financial plan. At the end of the first month the plan was £1m over budget and dependant on £13m available through the NHS as “permanent borrowing.”
Already, a day surgery unit set up with a private sector provider to help with increased demand for operations will have to stay open beyond its current contract which ends this month. This, alone, will cost Wye Valley NHS Trust (WVT) another £230k.
Earlier this month, the WVT board was told that the outlook over coming months is “challenging” if the Trust continues to experience emergency pressures while having to re-book cancelled operations within 28 days as the NHS constitution requires.
Mrs Simmons, who did want to detail her need for surgery, was set for an operation on April 27. At 9.15pm the night before, she was told it was cancelled.
A new appointment on May 30 was offered. At 5.30 on May 29 she heard that, too, had been cancelled.
She now has wait on another date next month.
"I feel sure that my experience is not an isolated one. In the interests of public health and safety, the crisis at Hereford County Hospital needs to be investigated urgently and openly," said Mrs Simmons.
The April figures show that there were 30 non–clinical cancellations on day of surgery and 22 elective procedures cancelled the day before – a total of 52 lost slots for non-clinical reasons.
In addition, there were 25 patient cancellations and 36 clinical cancellations made on the day of operation, meaning 113 lost slots in total, with most cancellations were due to a lack of beds.
Against this background, A&E attendances in April were 5.7% - or 234 – up against April 2013, an additional eight patients a day.
Attendances in May are forecast to be up as much as 10% on the same time last year as staff treat up to 180 patients a day.
WVT chief operating officer Neil Doverty said the Trust tried to give at least 24 hours’ notice of cancelled operations.
“But this is simply not possible in all cases. Some operations are unfortunately cancelled on the same day if we have to admit emergency patients as a priority,” he said.
The impact of new initiatives such as virtual wards and the clinical assessment unit is – on initial evidence – easing urgent care pressures, said Mr Doverty and the WVT also has plans to increase its use of new technology to allow remote access to services, appoint of more consultants and put GPs with emergency experience into A&E.
A major reconfiguration of beds gets underway over the summer to make better use of the space available.