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Monday, 10 January, 2000, 14:02 GMT
Operations cancelled as flu bites

Queen's Medical Centre, Nottingham Queen's Medical Centre has stopped routine surgery

Thousands of operations are being delayed in hospitals across the UK as the NHS struggles to cope with the flu crisis.

Flu nightmare
Many hospitals are only carrying out emergency operations as all spare capacity is being taken up dealing with victims of the flu virus.

St Thomas's Hospital in London, the Queen's Medical Centre in Nottingham, and the Bristol Royal Infirmary are among those which have cancelled all routine surgery.

All non-essential operations have been cancelled in the Ayrshire and Arran area, where the number of flu cases has reached the official epidemic figure.

The cancellations mean thousands of patients waiting for non-urgent surgery will have their operations delayed, possibly for weeks.

And the cancellations could drive waiting lists up again after a massive Government campaign to cut queues.

A spokeswoman for St Thomas's, the second largest NHS Trust in the country, said: "All non-urgent surgery has been cancelled since Saturday because of the general business of the situation.

"Emergency surgery is going ahead and while it is very busy, we are coping with the situation."

Services on a knife edge

Flu sufferer Flu is causing severe respiratory problems
A spokesman for the pressure group London Health Emergency said: "London's front line hospital services are on a knife edge this week as the flu epidemic continues to cause havoc throughout the NHS.

"It means that operations will be cancelled wholesale and that waiting lists will increase significantly.

"If the Government punishes hospitals who fail to meet waiting list targets in the face of this beds crisis it would be a scandal."

The Queen's Medical Centre said bosses had taken the decision not to restart routine surgery following the Christmas and New Year holiday.

A spokeswoman for the Bristol Royal Infirmary said: "We are postponing non-urgent, elective surgery because we have seen high levels of emergency admissions.

"The situation changes from day to day and we may be able to fit people in later this week but we cannot give any guarantees.

"We are seeing a lot of elderly people who are very ill with flu and underlying conditions and need high dependency nursing, and these people are taking up a lot of beds."

Worthing Hospital in West Sussex has no spare beds.

All non-essential operations have been cancelled, and surgical wards are being used to tend patients with flu.

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See also:
10 Jan 00 |  Health
Flu: An NHS nightmare
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