Sheffield social care delays result in huge rise in cancelled hospital operations

Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield
Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield
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More patients in Sheffield are having operations cancelled at the last minute – because of a shortage of hospital beds.

Problems with accessing social care have led to a 75 per cent increase in the number of hospital operations being cancelled. New figures released by Sheffield Teaching Hospitals reveal 154 patients had their operation cancelled on the day for non-clinical reasons in October – 66 more than in September.

Northern General Hospital, Sheffield.

Northern General Hospital, Sheffield.

Hospital bosses said the increase was ‘predominantly’ down to a lack of available hospital beds. They said bed shortages were ‘linked to the increase in delays for social care and subsequent decrease in discharges and increased bed occupancy’.

The issue is known as ‘bed-blocking’ in which medically-fit elderly people are stuck in hospital due to a lack of available care at home or in the community to allow them to be discharged.

The largest proportion of cancellations was for heart operations. A report to Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s board said: “In October 154 patients had their operation cancelled on the day for non-clinical reasons, 66 more than in September.

“Twenty-six per cent of the cancellations were attributed to bed availability, 14% for theatre overruns and 11 per cent due to administrative errors.

“Sixty per cent of the cancellations were at the Northern General Hospital and 27 per cent at the Royal Hallamshire.

“Cardiology accounted for 24 per cent of the cancellations, cardiac surgery 12 per cent and ophthalmology 18 per cent. The increase in October is predominantly due to lack of bed availability. 64 patients were cancelled due to a lack of a general bed and 15 for lack of a critical care bed.

“This is linked to the increase in delays for social care and subsequent decrease in discharges and increased bed occupancy.

“The largest proportion of cancellations were in cardiology where the Chesterman two-day ward was consistently used for ‘overnight medical outlier surge capacity’ throughout October.”

The report said work is continuing with Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group and Sheffield Council colleagues ‘to reduce delayed transfers of care’. It said: “The projects to reduce length of stay and flow across the organisation should reduce the number of cancellations due to bed availability.”

Kirsten Major, director of strategy and operations for Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “During the last three months we carried out over 33,000 operations and less than one per cent of these had to be postponed.

“Even at very busy times like during the current winter period we don’t want to cancel any operations if we can help it because we know how distressing this is for patients and their families.

“Of course we have to prioritise resources to ensure the needs of patients needing emergency care are met first but despite high demand during recent months we still continue to do all we can to prevent postponements.”

It was revealed last month there is an estimated £107 million budget black hole for social care and public health services in South Yorkshire over the next four years.

Sheffield Council has already cut £352m from its budget since 2010 due to huge Government grant reductions and what it terms unavoidable financial ‘pressures’ linked to increasing costs in providing services such as adult social care.

The authority is considering five years of extra council tax rises to help fund social care services.

Plans to allow English local authorities to raise council tax bills by an extra six per cent over the next two years to pay for social care have been unveiled this month by the Government.