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15% drop in number of postponed procedures in Wales

The number of cancelled or postponed procedures, which includes operations, in the Welsh NHS has fallen significantly over the last year, new figures published today reveal 

Statistics for 2013-14 show a total of 7,777 procedures were postponed in April 2013, but by March 2014 that number had fallen to 6,569 – a reduction of more than 15%.

The figures show cancellations by patients themselves and postponements for clinical reasons – for example the operation may no longer be necessary or the patient is not well enough to undergo the procedure –were, together, the most likely reasons a procedure needed to be rescheduled.

For example, of the 6,569 procedures postponed in March this year, 3,083 were at the request of the patient and 573 were the result of clinical factors.

Procedures may also be cancelled for non-clinical reasons. These may include work on the day taking longer than expected which results in an operating list over-running; an emergency patient being given priority or  unforeseen staff shortages.

Over the course of the year, procedures cancelled for non-clinical reasons fell by more than 26% – from 3,966 in April 2013 down to 2,913 in March 2014.

Welcoming the figures, Health Minister Mark Drakeford said:

“Postponed operations and procedures can be frustrating and inconvenient for patients and health staff. These new figures show the Welsh NHS is working hard to reduce the number of postponements by working in a more efficient, effective way.

“In particular, the reduction in cancellations for non-clinical reasons is encouraging. Some of the reasons why operations are postponed, such as procedures taking longer than expected have a knock-on effect on other patients, or unexpected emergencies, can be difficult to forecast. However, this is the area where better planning can make inroads into the total.

“But other factors, like clinical reasons or patients’ own choice, remain the most likely cause of a procedure being postponed.”

The Welsh Government changed the way it collects data on postponed and cancelled procedures in the NHS, collecting information about all procedures and all reasons for postponement. This is in contrast to NHS England which covers operations only and records cancellations for non-clinical reasons only

Channel website: https://www.icaew.com

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