NHS patients suffer as ops and appointments are cancelled

Workers demonstrate outside the Northern General Hospital, Sheffield.
Workers demonstrate outside the Northern General Hospital, Sheffield.
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THOUSANDS of NHS operations and appointments have been cancelled and rescheduled as a result of today’s strike.

NHS trusts across the country have written to patients informing them not to come in, although they are still providing emergency and critical care.

The picture varies across the UK, with some trusts expecting major disruption and others working as close to normal as possible.

Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust said 41 elective operations - 80% of the elective workload - had been cancelled and rescheduled.

Outpatient clinics have also been cancelled but emergency and trauma care will continue.

A spokeswoman said: “Trust staff may be redeployed to cover other areas in order to maintain patient services.

“Any redeployment of trust staff will be commensurate with the skills of the employees concerned and staff will not be required to undertake roles which are above and beyond their levels of competence.”

A spokeswoman from Scarborough and North East Yorkshire Healthcare NHS Trust said no planned operations had been cancelled.

She said appointments at the early pregnancy assessment unit had been rescheduled for tomorrow.

She added: “The full impact of the strike action will not be clear until it is under way, so it is possible that we may have no choice but to cancel some appointments and procedures on the day.”

In England, the Government estimates around 60,000 non-urgent operations, out-patient appointments, tests and follow-up appointments have been postponed while in Scotland at least 3,000 operations and thousands more hospital appointments are affected.

The University Hospital of South Manchester Trust, which runs the Wythenshawe Hospital site in south Manchester, said around 200 non-urgent outpatient appointments have been cancelled.

A spokesman said all other services will be operating as normal and patients who have not already heard from the trust should attend hospital as planned.

Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said, so far, 211 out of 1,149 outpatient appointments have been cancelled and 47 out of 99 elective inpatient and day case operations have been cancelled.

The trust said patients who have not been told their appointment has been cancelled should attend as normal.

Pat Oliver, director of operations, said: “The hospital will be running similar to a Christmas Day service, which means that all essential and emergency services will run as normal.

“However, services are likely to be under extra pressure so we would ask people to bear with us as they may experience some delays as patients will be seen in order of clinical priority.”

The Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs five hospitals - the Royal Oldham Hospital, North Manchester and Fairfield General Hospitals, Rochdale Infirmary and Birch Hill - said no operations have been cancelled so far and they were expecting “minimal disruption”.

It is advising patients to turn up as normal for planned treatment unless they are contacted.

A spokesman said: “Vital services for our patients need to continue so that patients are not rescheduled for some weeks, hence delaying their diagnosis and treatment.”

A number of non-urgent routine outpatient physiotherapy and orthopaedic clinics have been postponed and rescheduled.

Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust said around 300 planned procedures, including operations, and outpatient appointments have been rescheduled.

“Managers and frontline staff have worked closely together to ensure that all essential services provided by the trust continue,” a spokesman said.

“Some elective procedures and outpatient appointments on the day have been rescheduled and we have already been in contact with these patients to ensure that any inconvenience is minimised.”

The Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust said most outpatient appointments and planned operations are going ahead as planned.

There will be limited non-urgent patient transport services.

The Great Western Ambulance Service (GWAS) said it was committed to providing a safe and effective 999 service but urged those with less serious conditions to seek help elsewhere.

Ken Wenman, GWAS interim chief executive, said: “Our staff are passionate about patient care, but also feel strongly for their pensions and the expectation that they must work until they are 68 years age in what is an extremely demanding job.

“Although there is no doubt that the strike action will cause some disruption to normal services, we are working with unions and with our staff directly to ensure contingency plans are in place so together we can protect the 999 service and continue to provide safe, excellent care to our patients wherever and whenever the need us.”

There is expected to be a full patient transport service for patients with essential, planned appointments for renal, cancer and palliative care services.

GWAS also hopes to provide a patient transport service for other appointments.

On an average day, 28,000 patients have planned treatments or operations in England and there are 60,000 diagnostic tests.

Today, the NHS is more or less operating as if it was a weekend or Bank Holiday. Emergency and trauma care will be the priority.

The Government in England estimates around 400,000 nurses and healthcare assistants, paramedics, physiotherapists and support staff like cleaners and administrators are joining the action.

Many members of the unions Unison and Unite are taking part but the British Medical Association, Royal College of Nursing and Royal College of Midwives are not.

A spokeswoman from Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital said around 100 elective operations are normally performed each day.

Today, around 45 are being carried out, all of which are either operations for paediatric or cancer patients.

“Although we are doing everything possible to maintain services, unfortunately we are having to rearrange some patients’ appointments and non-emergency procedures as a consequence of the industrial action,” she said.

The Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester, which specialises in cancer care, said they were not anticipating cancelling any planned operations and were contacting patients to ensure they keep their appointments.

A spokeswoman said: “In discussion with trade unions and our staff, we have put robust plans in place to ensure that patients who require treatment will be seen.”