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04.01.18

Hunt apologises for cancelled ops despite PM’s ‘better prepared than ever’ claim

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has officially apologised to patients for the thousands of operations which have been postponed across the country.

Speaking to the BBC, Hunt said he was sorry that the NHS “regrettably” had to cancel huge numbers of non-emergency elective procedures, in an attempt to ease the enormous pressures on the system this winter.

Despite this, prime minster Theresa May has claimed that the health service was “better prepared for this winter than ever before.”

She said there were more beds available going into the busiest period of the year and that delayed transfers of care had been reduced to increase the space available for patients in hospitals – but before Christmas had begun, hospitals were already reporting bed occupancy levels as high as 95%.

Operations throughout England, already postponed until mid-January, have now been cancelled until the end of the month on the back of recommendations from the National Emergency Pressures Panel (NEPP) earlier this week.

Some NHS organisations are going to extreme lengths to deal with the massive increase in demand, with NHS Lanarkshire in Scotland calling on backroom office staff to work in cleaning and administrative roles as its hospitals were hit by “unparalleled” stress on services.

Hunt said: “I want to apologise for the fact that we have had to, regrettably, postpone a number of operations.”

He went on to say that the Department of Health was trying to do things differently this year, after winter pressures last year left huge numbers of operations called off and hospitals unable to guarantee safety.

May has since apologised, saying she understands that the situation is “difficult”, “frustrating” and “disappointing” for people who have had their operations postponed.

However, skyrocketing demand has still hit the system hard, with the East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) reporting 50% more calls than during the same period in 2016-17 – and therefore having to turn to private services – and GPs urging people with less serious conditions to try not to use services unless it is completely necessary.

Top image: Peter Byrne

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