"Not enough beds or ward facilities for surgery..."

About: Southmead Hospital

I had follow up plastic surgery for breast reconstruction after cancer.

I can't fault the care that I was given but there does not seem to be enough beds or wards for surgery recovery which is surprising given its a new hospital.

I was phoned the day before my op to say it might be cancelled for a third time, due to a shortage of beds because the previous hot sunny weekend had led to lots of people being admitted with burns from barbecue accidents.

They told me to come in on the day of the op anyway, which I did.

My op was the first on the day's schedule but was late starting because they could not find a bed for me, which made the surgeon and anaesthetist angry because it meant all their other operations that day would be late, and they wanted me to go to a plastic surgery ward.

The op went ahead and I came round in recovery at about 1pm.

They still hadn't found a bed so I had to wait there until about 8pm.

During this time I turned down several offers of food and drink because I was under the impression I was about to be moved to a ward at any minute and it would have been inconvenient for the porters if I was taking food and drink with me.

I was eventually transferred to Interventional Radiology.

This ward was not designed for people staying 1 or more nights recovering from surgery - it is one of the old fashioned open plan mixed sex wards with rows of beds and communal toilets so it was noisy.

There were several other patients who had been brought there for recovery after various types of surgery because no other beds were available.

While I can't fault the care I was given on this ward, they seemed to be short of stocks of basic things like dressings.

Story from NHS Choices

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Response from Southmead Hospital

Dear Anonymous - I am sorry to hear that your procedure had to be cancelled a number of times due to the demands on the plastic surgery service. Regrettably, as you may have gained from recent news stories, the NHS is under unprecedented pressure to deliver services across the board. The situation at Southmead is no different and the availability of recovery beds, particularly high dependency beds, is a problem in the Bristol and South Gloucestershire area due to the lack of rehabilitation beds in the community. This has an impact on the hospital being able to discharge patients who do not need to be in the acute setting but, are not yet ready to look after themselves at home. The growing demand from emergency admissions (also a newsworthy subject) has also to be factored into the demands on hospital resources. Clearly providing services to new admissions depends on the timely discharge of patients to create room. When this cannot be safely achieved it has an impact on elective surgery, waits in A&E and may other aspects of the hospitals ability to efficiently deliver our services. However, please be assured, that cancellation of any operation is always an action of last resort, but the overriding consideration must always be the hospital’s ability to deliver safe care to our patients.

I am sorry that this situation also impacted on you on the day you received your operation. I regret that discussion of the surgeon and anaesthetist worried you; this is not what we would expect from clinical professionals. Clearly, clinicians will always want to provide the best and most appropriate care for their patients, and when plans need to be changed to facilitate this it can be a source of frustration.

Thank you for your kind comments about the overall quality of your care. These will be fed back, with your other observations, to the teams concerned.

I hope that you are now well on the road to making a full recovery.

Kind Regards – Steve Sykes

Advice and Complaints Team

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