Cancer operations cancelled in Nottingham due to ‘pressure’ on ICU

28 October 2020, 11:39 | Updated: 28 October 2020, 11:41

A woman in a mask walks past a sign reading: 'What's On! In Nottingham'
Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust medical director said they had taken the “extremely difficult decision” to postpone four cancer operations. Picture: PA

By Joe Cook

Nottingham hospitals have cancelled some cancer operations this week due to “pressure on intensive care units”, as hospitals across the country are hit by coronavirus pressures.

Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust medical director said they had taken the “extremely difficult decision” to postpone four cancer operations this week.

NHS England has told hospitals to provide close to the full levels of services for people with non-Covid illnesses, but despite this the Nottingham trust had already previously announced some non-urgent surgery would have to be cancelled.

Although it is understood that the trust has not implemented a blanket cancellation of cancer operations at this stage, they conceded any delay “will be incredibly hard for the patients and their families”.

Keith Girling, medical director of the Trust, said: "We've had to make the extremely difficult decision to postpone operations for four of our cancer/pre-cancer patients this week due to pressure on our intensive care units from both Covid-19 and non-Covid related emergencies.

"We expect to treat one of the postponed patients next week, and we're in contact with the others to arrange a new date, which will be imminent.

He added: “I'm truly sorry for any distress this will have caused.”

To combat the spread of the virus inside hospitals 11,000 frontline staff at the trust have been tested for Covid over the past two weeks, with 6,000 patients also tested so far.

However, Dr Girling explained the rising number of cases in the area has also led to an “increase in the number of staff and patients who are positive for coronavirus and not displaying symptoms but who are able pass it on to others who may then become seriously ill.”

In an effort to not be forced to cancel more non-Covid treatment, Dr Girling said: "We are working closely with partners, and from next week we will be increasing our work with the independent sector to ensure we can continue to carry out urgent and cancer operations."

Nottingham hospitals are not the only ones to have suspended some treatments due to escalating admissions, with at least seven hospital trusts have cancelled or postponed operations.

Airedale Hospital, near Keighley in West Yorkshire, said it is suspending non-urgent surgery for two weeks.

It said in a statement: "We are seeing increasing demand on the hospital which is in turn meaning that our inpatient beds are at capacity.

"As a result, and as per our escalation plans, we have taken the decision to postpone any elective surgery that needs an overnight stay. This comes into effect immediately, for the next two weeks.

"Urgent and emergency cases and cancer surgery will be carrying on as normal.”

They added: "This is not a decision we take lightly, but is necessary to ensure that we can continue to care for the patients who need us most."

To free up beds, some of the Nightingale Hospitals in the north of England are to reopen, with the Manchester facility set to take recovering Covid patients from the end of this week.

But the British Medical Association (BMA), which represents around 70% of Britain's doctors, says NHS England’s call for hospitals to provide “near normal” levels of non-Covid care in the second wave is unrealistic.

Dr Rob Harwood, the chair of the BMA’s hospital consultants committee told The Guardian: “As we approach winter, it’s likely that many trusts will have no choice but to continue to restrict their elective care services, which is incredibly worrying for both staff and patients, as backlogs increase and health conditions potentially worsen.”