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There has been a 58 per cent rise in the number of children’s operations cancelled by the NHS in the past seven years, according to figures which critics warn illustrate the “cruel toll” of pressures on the health service.

Last year, a record 18,647 under-18s had surgery cancelled or delayed, with cancer treatment, pregnancy terminations and broken bones among the procedures affected.

That compares with 11,821 cancellations since the Conservatives came to power in coalition with the Liberal democrats in 2011/2012, and the number has climbed steadily in a period where austerity policies have seen budgets fall behind rising demand.

A lack of theatre capacity, bed shortages and equipment failures – among other reasons given for surgery cancellations – are all signs the health service’s shoestring budget is affecting the most vulnerable, experts said.

“The fact that more children’s operations are being cancelled nationally, is of deep concern to surgeons,” said Richard Stewart, president of the British Association of Paediatric Surgeons (BAPS), and Eric Nicholls, chair of the Children’s Surgical Forum at the Royal College of Surgeons, in a joint statement.

“Having an operation cancelled is stressful for children and their families,” they added. “Alongside practical considerations, such as wasted time off school and work, children and their families have to deal with the mental anguish of preparing for surgery all over again.”

The two groups first warned of rising cancellations in 2006, but pressures have been made worse by bed and staff shortages “as a result of the financial pressures the NHS has faced over recent years”.

The two groups first warned of rising cancellations in 2006, but pressures have been made worse by bed and staff shortages “as a result of the financial pressures the NHS has faced over recent years”.

Addressing funding and moving more minor surgery out of specialist centres, could also reduce cancellations, they added. Read more

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