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The independent London newspaper

It’s a long trip for a new hip

10,000 wait for orthopaedic surgery

24 January, 2020 — By Tom Foot

A SPIKE in last-minute cancellations of NHS hip and knee replacement operations has triggered a controversial shake-up of the service, which could see patients having to travel further afield for their surgery.

NHS chiefs say more than 10,000 north London patients are on the waiting list for orthopaedic surgery, mainly hip or knee replacement operations.

But more than 500 operations were cancelled last year with the vast majority – 96 per cent – scrapped on the day.

The main reasons for a last-minute cancellation are “demands of emergency services, lack of available beds or staff”, according to a consultation launched this week.

Under proposed changes some stay patients will no longer have surgery at the Whittington or the Royal Free and will be sent to University College Hospital in Euston or Chase Farm Hospital in Enfield instead. The idea is to free up beds in the Whittington’s heaving A&E.

Many Camden patients are already being sent to Chase Farm for surgery under changes introduced last year.

Roderick Allison, a health campaigner opposing the changes, said: “It’s ridiculous to make orthopaedic patients – not to mention cancer and maternity patients – attend a hospital which requires a journey by public transport involving four changes and 40 minutes walking – those are Transport for London’s official figures for the best journey time.”

He added: “You’d think they had deliberately set out to choose the patients for whom such a journey would be particularly impossible – it would make you laugh if it didn’t make you cry.”

Health chiefs admit that some patients and visitors “will have to travel further on the day of their operation”, and that “staff may have to work in a different hospital” and “people with a learning disability or dementia could find it confusing to go to a hospital they are not familiar with”.

The changes are being driven by the Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP), a new tier of NHS management in north central London looking to reduce NHS funding to five north London boroughs by almost £1billion over five years from 2022.

The STP, which was rebranded as “North London Partners”, says it can “deliver real improvements” and also “save money”.

• A public meeting on the changes is being held at the Crowndale Centre at 6.30pm on March 10. To book a space go to the North London Partners’ website.

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