COMMENT: Cancellation nothing short of scandalous

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FOR a hospital operation to be cancelled at short notice is unsettling. But when an operation involving vital surgery for a 16-month-old has been cancelled no less than four times it is nothing short of scandalous.

Wee Layton Tait was diagnosed when he just a few months old with a serious condition that left him struggling to breathe. But despite the urgency, Layton has had a string of operations cancelled since November.

Various reasons were given – from the surgeon calling off sick to a lack of intensive care unit beds – this was cited three times.

One procedure was called off just 20 minutes before it was due to take place.

That NHS chiefs say operations are only cancelled in “unavoidable circumstances” as it can have a negative impact on both patients and doctors only adds to this appalling story.

Layton’s health is clearly in danger. The need for a complex operation has been accepted. Little wonder that parents Libby Caldwell and partner Calum Tait have suffered huge anxiety and frustration.

Patient groups have branded the string of cancellations as “outrageous” and called on NHS Lothian to sort out the problem.

Dr Jean Turner, patron of the Scotland Patients Association, adds that it is a poor reflection on the state of management of the NHS.

Cancelled operations are not uncommon. More than one in ten pre-planned operations were cancelled in Lothian in December. And the number of cancelled procedures has risen in recent months with 688 surgeries called off compared to 551 in May – leaving Lothian as the worst-performing health board in Scotland.

Now most of these cancellations were due to patients themselves. But around three operations were re-scheduled each day due to capacity problems. And six operations were cancelled daily for clinical reasons.

NHS Lothian needs to take action to address this situation.