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Research reveals high numbers of operations cancelled on the day

What is causing one in seven non-urgent operations to be cancelled each day?


A snapshot study was taken of 26,171 in-patient operations scheduled to take place between 21 and 27 March 2017, in 245 NHS hospitals across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.


Out of the 26,171 scheduled operations, 3,724 were cancelled or postponed on the day of surgery ­- 377 because of insufficient bed capacity and 1,029 for clinical reasons, and in 2,110 cases no reason for cancellation was specified.


The research was carried out by the Health Services Research Centre at the Royal College of Anaesthetists and the University College London Surgical Outcomes Research Centre and found one in 10 patients going for a non-urgent procedure had already had a previous appointment cancelled.


Around a third of cancellations were for clinical reasons. The remaining causes included lack of beds, theatres, equipment and staff.


Experts have suggested that further evaluation of how separating emergency and elective services in some hospitals might help reduce cancellations.


Further information

British Journal of Anaesthesia: Cancelled operations: a 7-day cohort study of planned adult inpatient surgery in 245 UK National Health Service hospitals