How operating theatres are wasting two hours a day

A report by regulator NHS Improvement and seen by the BBC, has suggested that “NHS hospitals could carry out 280,000 more non-emergency operations a year by organising operating theatre schedules better”.

The research looked at data from 2016 and analysed the performance of theatres in 100 NHS Trusts in England. It found that more than two hours were wasted each day on the average operating list.  The study said that avoidable reasons, like late starts led to the loss of time.

It is estimated that a total of 1.64 million routine surgical procedures were carried out in 2016, including eye, ear, nose and throat operations and orthopaedic procedures.  Routine operations are those considered to be non-emergency, and each surgical team will have a daily operating theatre list of patients who are scheduled to go under the knife.

Professor Derek Alderson, president of the Royal College of Surgeons told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that “The logjam effect is a very major problem because the hospitals are completely full virtually all of the time. So if you need an intensive care bed and yesterday’s patient is not well enough to leave the intensive care unit, that day’s operating list cannot start.”

Sometimes these delays and cancellations in non-urgent surgery can have devastating consequences on those waiting for the surgery.  Not only do they suffer longer periods of pain, but the delay may also cause the condition(s) to become worse. Furthermore, the delay in treatment may cause it to be less effective, reducing the patient’s chances of returning to a normal life or in some of the more serious cases, leave them needing more care than they otherwise might have required.

As highlighted by the BBC, some hospitals – such as Croydon University Hospital – have become more efficient by changing the way they run operating theatres. However, the ongoing debate over whether more money is needed for the NHS or whether it could be more efficient, is unlikely to be resolved any time soon.

If you or a family member has suffered from a period of delay which is you consider unacceptable and feel that this has caused an injury, we at Devonshires are clinical negligence specialists and are here to help with the difficult process of seeking compensation.

If you wish to speak with one of our team, Karen Cathcart is a specialist lawyer with experience in these types of claims and can be contacted on 0207 880 4383 or at

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