PLANNED surgery operations are being postponed at “very short notice” according to a Hampshire doctor who said proposals to change hospital services in Basingstoke and Winchester will help prevent this and reduce waiting lists.

Figures from the NHS in Hampshire show that as of September 2023, more than 3,600 patients have been waiting more than a year for an operation with Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (HHFT) as it tries to deal with a backlog following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr Nick Ward, interim chief medical officer at HHFT, said currently patients face their planned surgery being postponed at short notice, and sometimes on the day of the operation.

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According to Dr Ward, plans to invest up to £900m in hospital services at HHFT will improve this situation.

A consultation on how to organise services across HHFT is running until March 17, and includes plans to build a new acute hospital in Basingstoke along with a new doctor-led 24/7 urgent treatment centre at Winchester.

Dr Ward said currently, both Winchester hospital and Basingstoke hospital carry out emergency operations as well as planned operations.

He said: “Unfortunately, this means that people having lower risk, more routine, planned surgery can find that their operations are postponed at very short notice, because beds, operating theatres, and staff are needed to care for patients needing emergency care.

“Sometimes this can be on the day of the operation itself, once patients have already arrived at the hospital, and made all the arrangements in their work and personal lives to be there. It goes without saying that this isn’t the experience we want for any of our patients, for their carers or for their families.”

Under the new proposals, which will be funded by the Government’s New Hospital Programme, emergency and planned surgery will be separated by creating a planned surgery centre at Winchester, with dedicated surgical staff for lower risk planned surgery.

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Dr Ward said this “would mean we can work so much more efficiently and effectively and provide a better experience for patients”.

He added: “It would enable us to make the best use of our operating theatre time and other resources, and help to shorten waiting lists as a result, as well as cut the number of operations that are postponed at short notice.”

As elsewhere in the NHS, waiting lists for planned operations are growing following the Covid-19 pandemic. In March 2019, there was just one person waiting more than a year for an operation at the trust; by September 2023, this had grown to more than 3,600 patients.

Dr Lara Alloway, chief medical officer at NHS Hampshire and Isle of Wight Integrated Care Board, said: “Separating emergency and planned surgery has the potential to improve the outcomes and experiences of patients in our hospitals, reduce cancellations, and – because it is a more efficient way of working – means that people won’t have to spend as long in hospital.

“It’s also a better model for training the next generation of surgeons, as they can focus specifically on emergency or planned procedures.

“We believe these proposals will mean that people will have better access to planned care regardless of where they live in Hampshire.”

It is estimated that about 80 per cent of planned operations could be undertaken at Winchester hospital, with the more complex 20 per cent being carried out at the new specialist acute hospital, where they would have access to critical care facilities if needed.

To take part in the consultation visit