'My operation was cancelled due to strike plans'

Tony Moule, 68, was due to have an operation to relieve severe back pain on Tuesday - when the now suspended industrial action by junior doctors was planned to start.

But he says a few weeks ago he received a call from the deputy operations manager at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge and was told the surgery had to be called off for "safety reasons" in case there were not enough staff at work during strike action.

It was the fourth time his operation had been cancelled.

'Cracking job'

He is frustrated that a procedure he has been waiting for since September - and that he feels could make a big difference to his quality of life - has been put off again.

He says: "As soon as I am on my feet the pain is there and the longer that I am on my feet - in the shower or when I am washing up for example - the pain is like a knife sticking into me."

But he says he supports the doctors and nurses "100%."

He adds: "I don't blame them. They do a cracking job.

"And I am glad they are back in negotiations. At least they are talking.

"I put it down to constant government interference and changing their contracts."

The first time it was cancelled he feels he was given adequate notice.

'Absolute disaster'

But the second time he had not eaten for 12 hours in preparation for surgery and was told only at the last minute that it could not go ahead.

The third time was an "absolute disaster", he says.

He added: "I had to buy two lots of train fares and cab fares - that cost me £75 and six and a half hours at the hospital.

"I was fuming."

He says he isn't sure why they were cancelled on the other days - perhaps due to staff shortages, he suggests.

He doesn't blame the staff but points towards the larger organisation.

Mr Moule's appointment has been rescheduled for January.

If it doesn't happen he plans to complain "in a big way".

He says: "I was born a year before the NHS started and so I paid in all my working life. I was never out of work.

"Now I need it in these last four years and it's not there for me all the time.

"That is what catches me in the throat.

"And it is happening to a lot of my age group - simple operations like this that can improve your life."

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Another patient, a 61-year-old man who agreed to speak anonymously, told the BBC that an operation to remove his prostate tumour had been cancelled because of the strike.

Though he has sympathy for the junior doctors' dispute, he said: "I assume junior doctors would be keen for this operation to go ahead if it was for themselves or their relatives, regardless of industrial action."

'Question of time'

He said he was surprised and concerned that this type of operation had been cancelled and rescheduled for two weeks' time.

He added: "It only takes a few cells for the tumour to spread. It is only a question of time."

However, the BBC has been told that many hospitals around the country had put plans in place to protect cancer services from industrial action.

One patient we heard from, a 47-year-old lady who wished to remain anonymous, said her appointment to see an ear, nose and throat specialist has now been rescheduled for later in the day.

On Monday she was told it had to be cancelled as her consultants were supporting their junior doctor colleagues.

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