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Case histories
"Operations were cancelled at the last minute"
 real 28k

Steve Edwards
"My partner's cancer surgery was cancelled"
 real 28k

Thursday, 24 February, 2000, 08:35 GMT
Cancelled operations: Case studies

mavis skeet
Mavis Skeet's operation was cancelled five times


More patients than ever before are having their operations cancelled. BBC News Online looks at some high profile cases.

Mavis Skeet

Mavis Skeet was told her cancer tumour was inoperable after her planned operation was cancelled four times.

The 74-year-old had been waiting five weeks to find out if her cancer of the oesophagus had spread.

However, a shortage of beds at Leeds General Infirmary led to the repeated cancellation of her operation.



My mum and dad have paid all their lives into the NHS. At the moment they feel totally let down
Jane Skeet
She was due to have an eight-hour operation in December to remove her gullet and to assess the progress of the disease. But the surgery at Leeds General Infirmary was cancelled because a member of the operating team had flu.

Further operations were cancelled because no intensive care beds were available due to the flu outbreak in January.

An earlier scan had been hopeful, showing the cancer had not spread, but five weeks later the scan revealed it had spread to her windpipe, rendering an operation impossible.

The operation might also have allowed Mrs Skeet to eat and drink rather than being fed through a tube.

After it was announced that the cancer was now inoperable daughter Jane said: "My mum and dad have paid all their lives into the NHS. At the moment they feel totally let down."

Hannah Smith



We were so angry about the delays, but it meant we had another Christmas and New Year with her
Robert Smith
Three-year-old Hannah Smith's heart operation was postponed seven times and she died after the surgery was finally carried out.

Hannah, of Richmond, North Yorkshire, died after surgery at Leeds General Infirmary for a major defect which restricted the flow of blood to the heart.

Attempts to schedule her in for surgery to improve the quality of her life were repeatedly frustrated over an eight month period.

Twice surgery was postponed because more urgent cases came in and there were no intensive care beds, twice because of administrative errors, and three times because Hannah was ill.


Hannah died after her operation finally went ahead
On two occasions last year her parents, Robert and Susan, travelled 70 miles to the hospital, only to be told all five children's intensive care beds were taken.

"We were so angry about the delays, but it meant we had another Christmas and New Year with her," her father said after her death.

Alan Thomas

Alan Thomas was diagnosed as having cancer of the wind-pipe and told he needed urgent surgery before Christmas last year.

But the operation, due to be carried out at Macclesfield Hospital, was then cancelled four times, before he finally received treatment elsewhere.


Alan Thomas had operation cancelled four times
Mr Thomas told the BBC: "My cancer was trapped early - I had only a small cancer. But those reassurances are meaningless to someone like me who doesn't understand the disease.

"You feel in yourself getting worse and you get more and more anxious.

"You begin to think, well, how much time have I got before the situation, like you hear happening to others, becomes inoperable."

Jocelyn Yacomen

Jocelyn Yacomen had her cancer operation cancelled three times. Her partner Steve Edwards says the constant let-downs were agonising.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "It was just anger and disbelief at the delay of the treatment. It was quite cruel to treat a family like this, especially the children.



It was quite cruel to treat a family like this, especially the children
Steve Edwards
"How do you explain to four children - two-year-old twins, a six-year-old and an eight-year-old - what was going on.

"We were in a hell of a state ourselves really and trying to get on with normal life - we had a business to run.

"Our lives were put on complete hold for a period of time."

Jack Barnett

Jack Barnet had vital surgery for a potentially fatal condition cancelled seven times because of a shortage of intensive care beds.

Mr Barnet, from Scarborough, had surgery on a blood vessel cancelled an hour before it was due to begin. On another occasion he was given an anaesthetic before the operation on an abdominal aortic aneurysm, a weakening of an artery, was abandoned.

Last August Mr Barnett, who is in his late fifties, was advised he needed treatment within six weeks.



That has been the problem - we have not had the intensive care beds available
Gilly Collinson, Scarborough NHS Trust
Gilly Collinson, of Scarborough NHS Trust, said in January: "We can only bring someone in for major surgery such as this if we know that there is an intensive care bed available in which they can receive post-operative care.

"That has been the problem - we have not had the intensive care beds available. It would therefore be to put somebody at risk to operate on them under those circumstances."

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See also:
24 Feb 00 |  Health
Cancelled operations soar
24 Feb 00 |  Health
Shelved operations: Q&A

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