MR ROBIN SWANN MLA, Ulster Unionist Party Assemblyman and his party’s Chief Whip has urged the DUP/Sinn Fein-run Stormont Executive “to stop treating patients as mere statistics and start seeing them as real people”.
Assemblyman Swann, who is also North Antrim UUP Chairman and Chairperson of the Stormont All-Party Committee on Congenital Heart Conditions, issued his challenge after it emerged that cancelled operations for non-clinical reasons at Coleraine’s Causeway Hospital had risen dramatically over the past four years from 264 in 2012/13 to 385 in 2015/16.
Speaking after the UUP obtained the figures from a document entitled P9 Cancelled Operations Return, Assemblyman Swann said: “These are not just mere statistics for the Causeway Hospital; they are people’s lives. Delayed operations often only exacerbate the stress and anxiety patients and their families face.
“The figures show that while the number of cancelled operations fell by four from its 2012/13 level to 260 in 2013/14 and again to 244 in 2014/15, the level rose dramatically in 2015/16 to 385.
“In addition, undue delays in patient treatment can sometimes mean a greater likelihood of the individual coming to harm, with many immediately facing a further short-term impediment in quality of life.
“Many of the operations are cancelled at the last minute with little or no explanation. Patients are justified in feeling angry. A last minute cancellation can cause major inconvenience as patients, many who have been waiting in pain and distress for months, often not only prepare themselves mentally for the surgery, but also some will have arranged to take time off work.
“The increase in the number of cancelled operations is symptomatic of the wider unprecedented crisis the local health service is currently experiencing.These figures specifically only relate to non-clinical reasons.
“So for instance, cases when a patient cancels themselves, or when their condition has deteriorated and therefore are no longer suitable for surgery at that time, are not included.
“Some of the most common non-clinical reasons for cancellations are the unavailability of ward beds, a theatre list over-running and key staff such as anaesthetists, surgeons and theatre staff being unavailable.
“The problems facing our local hospitals are vast, but many are intertwined and, therefore, by fixing one could lead to benefits in other areas.
“Directly tackling the underlying causes of cancelled operations – primarily bed and staff shortages – by, for example, ensuring sufficient social care packages are available in the community could mean otherwise delayed discharges; again, bed blocking at £400 per bed per day could be avoided and, therefore, make the beds available for short-stay outpatients and surgical procedures,” said Assemblyman Swann.