MORE than 7,000 operations were cancelled in Gwent hospitals last year, more than in any other health board area in Wales.

But health bosses said many cancellations are made by patients, and decisions to call off operations for clinical reasons are “never taken lightly.”

Figures obtained by Plaid Cymru through the Freedom of Information Act reveal that Wales-wide more than 50,000 operations have been cancelled in the past two years.

The party concentrated its fire on the situation in the Cardiff and Vale Health Board area, where it will contest a Parliamentary by-election later this year.

But the figures show that in the Aneurin Bevan Health Board area, 7,045 operations were cancelled last year, up from 6,502 in 2010/11.

Increases were also recorded in Cardiff and Vale, Betsi Cadwaladr and Powys Health Boards, and Plaid Cymru called the situation “a waste of scant resources”.

The party’s health spokesman Elin Jones said the increases indicate to health boards “that centralisation of services does not solve all your problems”.

In Gwent, almost 8,000 operations were cancelled in 2008/09, but after falling the following year to 6,228, cancellations have risen steadily.

Operations are cancelled by hospitals for reasons such as a patient’s pre-existing medical condition or current acute illness, if pre-operative guidance is not followed, if an operation is considered no longer necessary, or if a patient is deemed unsuitable for day surgery.

Non-clinical reasons include a lack of beds, unavailability of surgeons, anaesthetists or theatre staff, equipment failure, or administrative error.

“It is important to see the number of operations cancelled in context, as there will always be a number of possible reasons for planned surgery to be cancelled,” said a health board spokesman.

“In many cases our patients cancel surgery themselves for example, if the date is not convenient, or they are unwell, no longer require the operation, or do not attend.

“Over the past three years 9,891 operations were cancelled by our patients.

“The decision to cancel an operation by the health board for clinical reasons is never taken lightly.”

Pre-operative assessment, an exclusive day-of-surgery admission ward, and close discussions with patients to ensure convenient dates for surgery, are among measures in place to try to prevent cancelled operations.

COMMENT: Cancelled ops trauma

WE HAVE in the past featured reports of patients who have gone through the trauma of preparing themselves for surgery, only to have the operation cancelled at the last minute.

They have told us of how awful it is to be waiting for surgery, often for weeks, if not months, only to learn late in the day that it has been cancelled and the wait must start all over again.

In some thankfully more rare cases, operations have been cancelled on more than one occasion, which is a terrible situation for anyone to face.

Now it appears that cancelled operations are not unusual and that in just one year 7,045 operations were called off in the Aneurin Bevan Health Board area alone.

Across Wales the figure is 50,000 cancelled operations in a year.

Of course there is a wide range of reasons for cancellations.

Some are perfectly acceptable clinical reasons.

In other cases patients themselves cancel their surgery date.

But in others the move is necessary because of a lack of beds, unavailability of staff or even equipment failure.

And these cancellations are harder to accept, especially when it is considered that behind every statistic is a patient who is suffering either an illness or condition which may mean them needing home care or being unable to work.