The number of cancelled operations at North Wales’ troubled health board has shot up in the last three years.
A total of 8,566 operations were cancelled in 2015/16 cancelled due to no fault on the part of the patient.
However in 2018/19 that figure had jumped to 11,224.
Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, which has been in special measures for four years, saw the number of cancellations grow each year since the Welsh Government had to step in.
In 2016/17 the number for cancellations was 8,873 and the next year it hit 10,267.
Some of the categories that saw the biggest number of cancellations included trauma and orthopaedics, ophthalmology and gastroenterology.
North Wales AM, Llyr Gruffydd said: “We often hear about patients missing appointments and the cost of those to the NHS.
“These cancelled operations are, however, down to the health board and what I can only presume are staff shortages as well as patients being unfit for surgery.
“We know there are 500 nursing vacancies in Betsi Cadwaladr – one in 10 of the nurses needed – and shortages of doctors in particular specialisms. Is that driving the growing number of cancelled operations?
“I’m particularly concerned to see the dramatic rise in cancelled ops for some specialities: ophthalmology – up from 744 to 1405 in four years, gastroenterology – up from 364 to 1118 in four years and clinical oncology – up from just eight to 759 in four years.
“These three alone account for most of the increase we’ve seen from 2015/6 to 2018/9 and I’m sure patients will want reassurances that these worrying rises are being addressed by senior management within the board.
“I’d like an explanation as to how many of these operations have been cancelled due to a lack of surgeons, specialist support staff or the availability of beds after treatment.
He added: “It’s a worrying trend as the health board enters its fifth year in special measures under direct control of the Health Minister.”
A spokesman for the health board said: “We fully acknowledge the anxiety caused to patients who have their procedures cancelled and we are working hard to reduce the number of cancellations which occur at short notice.
“There are a number of reasons why operations are cancelled and these can include staffing issues, the availability of beds, and in some cases, sudden and unforeseen emergency situations.
“We always look to reschedule cancelled operations as soon as possible.
“One of our key priorities is to better manage demand for planned care across the health board. This includes improving how we manage waiting lists and the efficiency of our theatres.”
A Welsh Government spokesman said: “We expect all patients to be seen and treated in a timely manner.
“Where procedures are postponed for both clinical and non-clinical reasons, we would expect health boards to offer patients a new, mutually agreed date as quickly as possible.”
By Shane Brennan – BBC Local Democracy Reporter (more here on the LDR scheme).