Wales politics

More efficient hospital theatres 'would cut cancelled ops'

Empty hospital beds Image copyright Thinkstock

Running hospital theatres more efficiently would lead to fewer cancelled operations, the auditor general has said.

A Wales Audit Office (WAO) report said a lack of beds was a common cause of postponed procedures.

It said some health boards had daily staffing difficulties for theatre.

But the Welsh Government said the study showed nearly half of postponed planned operations were because patients cancelled them or did not attend.

The report, published on Thursday, said problems surrounding the availability of beds were "a frequent barrier to the smooth running of operating theatres, and a common cause of cancelled operations".

The report added: "Staff frequently told us about the demoralising impact of not being able to run theatres efficiently because of problems with bed availability."

The lack of an available ward bed was cited as the most common reason for operations cancelled at short notice - 16% of such cases.

Prioritisation of emergency patients at times of high demand "can cause short-notice cancellations of operations and disruption to planned theatre lists," the report said.

Poor planning of operating lists, with unrealistically high or low numbers of operations being booked on to a list, was also an issue, it added.

The audit office said in some health boards there were "daily difficulties" in ensuring sufficient cover for theatres by shuffling staff to work in different areas.

The report said there were nearly 82,000 cancelled planned operations in 2014-15, more than 11,500 of which were cancelled after patients were admitted to surgery.

Some 38,990 cancelled planned operations were due to patients cancelling or not turning up.

'Better performance'

Auditor General Huw Vaughan Thomas said it was good to see the focus on safety in theatres growing.

"However... there is a lot more that health boards can do to ensure that their theatre capacity is used efficiently and effectively," he said.

"Achieving this will have benefits for both patients and health boards with fewer cancelled operations, and better performance against waiting time targets."

A Welsh Government spokesman said it was taking action to make planned care in the health service more efficient.

"The auditor general again highlights the stark fact that nearly half of all postponed procedures were because patients either cancelled or did not attend their appointment," he said.

The spokesman added the government wanted to create a "shared responsibility NHS where people attend their appointments".

The report is based on work done between early 2014 to late 2015 in all health boards other than Powys.

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