Between 1st April and 1st October this year, 72 patients had their surgery postponed at Salford Royal Hospital due to what the Hospital calls "bed capacity reasons".
Salford Royal, formerly known as Hope, has a savings target of £30million this year under the project title `better care at lower cost', and a worker told the Salford Star that the cancellation of operations was a "money saving exercise by management".
They added that the cost of the fines the hospital has to pay for cancelling operations is less than the amount saved in reducing bed capacity...
"What is going on is definitely not in the best interests of patients" the NHS worker explained "Patients are brought in for surgery and then it's cancelled, and it smacks of them being treated like some kind of commodity. These are poorly people but nowhere is it taken into account the impact of what the hospital is doing. It's disgusting the way that patients are being treated, and even doctors are disgruntled with the place..."
That staff morale is plummeting is highlighted in the Salford Royal's latest `dashboard' survey which shows that in the Surgery and Neurosurgery department almost 40% of staff (38%) wouldn't recommend the hospital to friends and family `as a place to work', up from 31% in the first quarter. In last year's final quarter (2014-15), 80% recommended Salford Royal as a place to work. The latest average for all staff in all departments is down to 65%.
While Salford Royal Hospital was given an overall `outstanding' rating in its last inspection from the Care Quality Commission, the surgery category overall (and particularly under `safe' and 'well led') was rated as `requires improvement'.
Minutes for the September Board Meeting for the Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust show a non-executive member of the Board refer to cancelled operations, seeking clarification "regarding the Trust's position on cancelled operations for non-clinical reasons" – he was met with a non-answer by the Managing Director for Neurosciences and Surgery, who merely "provided assurance that all Senior Management Teams had a resilience plan. He confirmed excellent support from the Executive Team and highlighted the importance of consistent messaging in addressing cultural change..."
Today, Chancellor George Osborne is being urged to allocate more money to the NHS in his Autumn Statement, and pre-Statement leaks have hinted that this will be the case. But will it be enough to sustain services at Salford Royal? Campaigners believe that it won't. The figures for the 72 cancelled operations were based around spring and summer months, and demands on hospitals always rise during the winter.
"Salford Royal performed a total of 10,055 operations during the past six months" a Salford Royal spokesman explained "Unfortunately, during this same period, 72 patients had their surgery postponed due to bed capacity reasons. We never underestimate the impact a postponement may have on our patients and if we should have to postpone an operation at short notice, we always strive to ensure the procedure is re-booked within 28 days."