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*Two breast cancer patients missed vital operations after metal thieves targeted a hospital back up generator, forcing the suspension of all surgery.

Hospital bosses condemned the theft as “absolutely disgraceful” and revealed up to 50 operations had been cancelled.

The theft of 100 metres of copper cable was discovered at Llandough Hospital, in Penarth, south Wales, yesterday afternoon.

The hospital, run by the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, is awaiting a replacement generator so surgery can restart.

Operations at the hospital are currently still on hold.

The theft came at a time when surgeons were already working flat out to get as many operations done as possible before Christmas.

The hospital deals with an array of non-emergency surgery, from orthopaedic and breast surgery, including cancer patients.

Back up generators are absolutely crucial to hospitals because they guarantee life and death services remain running if there is a power cut.

Jan Williams, the university health board chief executive, called the theft “dangerous and irresponsible”.

She described the thieves as “mindless” and said patients and staff alike were “horrified and appalled” by their actions.

“Theatres have been working flat out so we get as much surgery done as possible before Christmas,” she said.

“Forty to 50 patients have had their surgery cancelled, amongst whom there are two breast caner patients for whom we have had to defer their surgery and that is a really traumatic impact for those two patients.

“We will be rescheduling them as quickly as possible but I don’t underestimate the trauma associated with that, all for 100 metres of copper cable.

“It’s absolutely disgraceful.”

She added: “Everybody is appalled and horrified. I mean, this theft is mindless, it’s dangerous and potentially puts lives at risk.

“Nobody can understand why this has happened and how it has happened given the potential seriousness of it.”

South Wales Police confirmed the theft was reported to them at 14.50 yesterday and an investigation into the matter was under way.