• Cancellation of cancer operations of particular concern to trust chief executive
  • Primarily caused by emergency pressures
  • Medical director says the trust is “doing everything” to reschedule surgery

University Hospitals of Leicester Trust has admitted a “significant number” of cancer operations were cancelled in early January due to winter pressure.

According to the trust’s March board report, a “particular concern” of chief executive John Adler was the cancellation of cancer surgery.

The report said this was caused “primarily” by a high number of emergency cases requiring intensive therapy unit or high dependency unit care, but also by “general pressure on beds”.

Mr Adler said in his chief executive’s report that while the trust’s longer term plans involve “considerable expansion” of ITU capacity, this “does not of course help in the here and now”.

The NHS in many areas saw intense pressure on emergency care in the first days and weeks of January, including high rates of flu admissions. A national emergency pressures panel advised hospitals to defer “non-urgent inpatient elective care” throughout that month.

Andrew Furlong, medical director at the trust, which has a turnover of more than £900m, said in a statement it “does not take the decision of cancelling patients, particularly cancer patients, lightly”.

“We know how distressing this is for everyone involved but we cannot in good faith bring patients in for surgery if we do not have a bed somewhere to safely look after them following their surgery,” Mr Furlong said.

He said the trust is “doing everything” to reschedule the patients for their surgery.

“Whilst this will inevitably have a knock on effect to other patients who would have had an operation planned in the coming weeks, it is only right that our cancer and emergency patients take priority.”

The report also highlighted that the 62 day cancer treatment target was not achieved in December and cited delayed referrals from network hospitals as a significant factor.

The trust predicted that it will not meet the standard for referral to treatment time in February because of competing demands with emergency and cancer performance, reduced scheduled activity due to continuing bed pressures and reduced additional activity due to capacity pressures.