NHS England cancelled more urgent operations in November 2016 than in any other month on record and almost double that of November last year, says government data. New figures, released on Friday 23 December, revealed that last month 446 urgent operations were cancelled, up from 357 in October.
In November 2015 there were 243 urgent operations cancelled in England with 319 cancelled in November 2014. The latest figure is the highest since the public health body began to keep records in August 2010.
In September 2016 there was 369 operations cancelled with the lowest number of cancellations in January this year (293).
In response to the alarming figures Liberal Democrat former health minister Norman Lamb told the Guardian the latest data was down to the current government's inability to fund the NHS and social care.
Lamb said his party had pleaded for an extra £400m in emergency funding to help see the NHS through the winter, but they were ignored by Philip Hammond in his autumn statement.
"Now patients are paying the price for the government's short-sightedness, with record levels of cancelled operations and hospitals being stretched to breaking point," Lamb said to the newspaper. "Waiting for an operation is stressful enough even when everything goes smoothly. To be told that your operation has been delayed heaps even more strain on patients."
Jonathan Ashworth, Labour's health spokesman, said the figures were "completely unacceptable".
"Given the urgent nature of these operations, the consequences of delays could be very serious indeed," he declared. "Theresa May has no interest in the NHS and as she continues to starve it of the resources it needs, the result is we are likely to see waiting lists across the board continue to rise."
Hospitals were asked earlier this month to postpone all non-urgent operations in order to free up beds for the most urgent cases that will be arriving over the winter period.
According to statistics released in March, only four hospitals in England hit the Government A&E targets in the first three months of the year.
Hospitals are fined £120 for each failure in treating an accident and emergency case within four hours and a £300 fine for each failure to treat a patient on the non-urgent referral-to-treatment waiting list within 18 weeks.