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Festive season hospital bed crisis

PUBLISHED: 16:45 16 December 2009 | UPDATED: 09:17 12 August 2010

PATIENTS operations were cancelled for at least two days because of a bed crisis which residents fear will get worse when a surgical unit closes. All elective surgery is due to move to the Princess Royal University Hospital, Farnborough (PRUH) from Jan

PATIENTS' operations were cancelled for at least two days because of a bed crisis which residents fear will get worse when a surgical unit closes.

All elective surgery is due to move to the Princess Royal University Hospital, Farnborough (PRUH) from January when Orpington Treatment Centre (OTC) closes at the end of this month.

But last week, the PRUH had to let dozens of people down when it called off their surgery because it couldn't cope the number of patients.

Despite repeated requests, South London Healthcare Trust (SLHT), which manages the PRUH, was unable to provide the Times with an answer about how many operations were cancelled, or even exactly how many days, but admitted it was likely to be at least dozens.

The hospital blamed the cancellations which took place on December 7 and 8, and possibly on December 9, on an unexpected influx of A&E cases.

Julie Mott, who collected 18,500 signatures against the closure of OTC said: "They are still transferring recovering post-operative patients from the PRUH to OTC and yet they say there is no need for it anymore."

The lengthy and controversial 'A Picture of Health' (APOH) consultation process last year ended with recommendations that surgery should move to Queen Mary's Hospital, Sidcup.

But South London Healthcare Trust (SLHT) has decided on an interim move to the former Private Patient Unit at the PRUH. It claims it will help end uncertainty for staff. Health campaigners are now demanding to know why OTC is closing when the PRUH can't handle the current number of patients and say the problem will only get worse and lead to more cancellations.

Meanwhile, hospital chiefs have admitted that Queen Mary's A&E is unlikely to be re-opened.

Bosses at South London Healthcare NHS Trust (SLH) 'temporarily' closed the A&E at Queen Mary's Hospital, Sidcup (QMS) to blue-light emergency cases on September 9 between 8pm and 8am. Now night time blue-light cases are forced to go to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich (QEH) or Princess Royal Hospital in Farnborough (PRUH).

A spokesperson for SLHT said it was not able to disclose the number of cancellations had taken place.

A spokesperson for SLHT said: "South London Healthcare is experiencing a high volume of patients at all its A&E departments currently. This situation resulted in the Trust cancelling some elective surgery at PRUH last week in order to free up bed capacity for emergency care.

"We are still using the facilities at Orpington Treatment Centre until December 23. The Treatment Centre will close on this day and will relocate at the Princess Royal site to re-open as a unit on January 4 2010."

SLHT was criticised in the Foster report at the end of November for being unable to provide figures for cancelled operations.

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