Nearly 15,000 children’s operations were cancelled at hospitals in England last year, new figures have revealed.
A total of 14,628 operations for children were cancelled in 2022 – an increase of 23% from the previous year and the highest level in the past five years.
The figures were obtained by the Liberal Democrats through Freedom of Information requests, with responses from 77 NHS hospital trusts in England.
Nearly 4,000 of last year’s cancellations were due to a lack of beds – a rise of 60% since 2021.
And 50% more children’s operations than the previous year – 2,894 – were cancelled due to a lack of staff.
A total of 446 were cancelled due to equipment problems and 1,100 were cancelled due to a lack of theatre time on the day or because lists were overbooked.
University Hospitals Birmingham cancelled more children’s operations than any other trust, with just over 3,160.
Of these, more than 2,000 – more than two-thirds – were due to a lack of beds and 760 were because of staff shortages.
Other hospital trusts with the highest number of cancellations were:
• Birmingham Women and Children’s – 2,217
• Milton Keynes University Hospital – 1,284
• Alder Hey Children’s Hospital – 682
• Portsmouth Hospitals – 589
The data also shows some children have been waiting for nearly three years for an operation. The top four longest waits were at:
• Leicester General – 1,083 days
• Hull University Teaching Hospital – 1,008 days
• Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust – 917 days
• East Kent Hospitals – 900 days
NHS medics have been on strike over the past few months as they call for better pay and conditions, with BMA members who are junior doctors – any doctor below consultant level – set to walk out again from 11-15 April.
The Lib Dems have demanded an NHS rescue plan, including recruiting 8,000 more GPs, a higher minimum wage for social care workers and a “proper NHS workforce plan”.
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Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey said: “The shocking scale of cancelled children’s operations is a badge of shame for this Conservative government.
“Behind these figures are countless children and parents having to wait in pain and distress.
“Years of neglect by this government have led to chronic staff shortages and a lack of hospital beds, with communities across the country paying the price.
“The local elections in May are a chance to send this out of touch Conservative government a message that enough is enough. We need a rescue plan now to bring local health services back from the brink.”