Sheffield hospitals 'not routinely cancelling all non-urgent operations' despite national advice

Sheffield hospitals will go ahead with as many non-urgent operations as possible this month - despite national advice to postpone every procedure.

Kirsten Major, deputy chief executive of the trust.
Kirsten Major, deputy chief executive of the trust.

NHS England's National Emergency Pressures Panel advised on Tuesday that every hospital in the country should be able to cancel all non-urgent surgery - such as hip or knee replacements - until at least February.

It is estimated the move could result in up to 50, 000 planned operations being cancelled nationwide. The unusual measure has been taken to ease pressure on overstretched hospital staff who are already dealing with a spike in winter flu cases.

Northern General Hospital.

But as other hospitals have reported scenes of growing chaos, with some patients facing 12-hour waits, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said they are not routinely cancelling all non-urgent procedures or appointments as per the national advice despite a rise in patient numbers in recent weeks.

The trust will instead contact patients directly if their appointment or operation is cancelled.

Kirsten Major, deputy chief executive of the trust, said: “We are aware that there has been media coverage today about national recommendations which allow trusts to defer operations and appointments if necessary but we are reviewing our position several times a day and based on this we have decided not to routinely cancel all non-urgent operations or appointments at this time.

"We are asking patients who have a planned appointment or operation to attend as planned unless we contact them direct."

Northern General Hospital.

Hospitals have been told to accept they may also have to have mixed sex wards if that becomes necessary, but the Sheffield trust also ruled this out for the time being.

Ms Major added: "We have also worked very hard to eliminate mixed sex accommodation over a number of years and so we do not intend to consider placing patients in mixed sex accommodation during this busy period unless it is a matter of clinical safety for that patient at that time.”

Professor Keith Willett, director of acute care for NHS England, said that the delay of non-urgent operations was not a crisis and added the NHS in England was reacting to concerns from doctors and nurses over a rise in flu incidents, as well as predicted cold weather.

He said: "With the incidents of flu rising in the community and in our hospitals, and the pressures that we always see in the first few weeks of January, that it's important we give the hospitals time and space to manage the demand that we anticipate will come through."