Man's heart bypass cancelled three times in two weeks by Derriford Hospital
A HEART patient was forced to travel 450 miles to and from hospital after bypass surgery was cancelled three times in a fortnight.
Stephen Jones, right, is waiting for a major operation to replace a failing heart valve.
The 62-year-old has travelled to Derriford Hospital for the procedure three times only to be sent home untreated – on August 24 and 31, and September 5.
Mr Jones said he is exhausted by the repeated setbacks. He suffers from heart disease, angina, asthma, emphysema and clinical depression.
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Hospital managers said they are "extremely sorry" for the triple rescheduling, which was due to emergency cases limiting intensive care beds.
The surgery has been set for Thursday.
Mr Jones, a former health and safety consultant, said: "I'm exhausted mentally and physically. I've been backwards and forwards, building myself up again and again.
"Each time I go into hospital I have to arrange for a friend to come and stop at mine to look after my two dogs while I am in hospital. I have to arrange for my son to drive me in and pick me up.
"This is, including me, three people that are affected directly by this situation. I myself have had to prepare mentally for this operation each time only for that preparation to be dashed."
Mr Jones lives in Witheridge, North Devon, which is around a 150-mile round trip to Derriford.
He said hospital staff have been "brilliant" and blamed delays on NHS restructuring putting increased pressure on services.
Mr Jones was diagnosed with heart disease in 1996 following a heart attack.
He was admitted to Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital on August 10 after suffering chest pains and disorientation.
An electrocardiogram (ECG) test revealed his aortic heart valve had weakened to 60 per cent of its capacity. Mr Jones said he was told it had "two years left in it".
He was discharged from Exeter on August 14 and referred to Derriford's specialist heart unit for an operation on August 24.
"The condition of my discharge was that I took it easy and got some rest," said Mr Jones.
He turned up in Plymouth on August 23 as requested.
The operation was cancelled the following day at 4pm – after 16 hours without food in preparation – and rescheduled for August 31.
After turning up for the second time, Mr Jones said he was dropped down the priority list from first to second because of urgency. The operation was then cancelled at midday on the 31st – this time after 12 hours of fasting.
The procedure was rescheduled for a third time – to September 6.
But when he arrived at the hospital the days before the procedure he was informed the surgery had been cancelled yet again.
Mr Jones said: "My last thee experiences in Derriford have left me dispirited. Not because of the staff, who have been really exceptional, but the way that the NHS is being tinkered with to make it unworkable.
"Over the last eighteen months I seen a deterioration in the provision, not a drop in standards but a state of stretching of resources."
A Derriford Hospital spokeswoman said staff are doing their very best to ensure that the procedure planned for September 13 takes place as planned.
She said: "We are extremely sorry that Mr Jones' planned operation has been rescheduled on three separate occasions and sincerely apologise for the inadvertent distress and inconvenience caused to Mr Jones and his family for these instances.
"Unfortunately the availability of our intensive care beds was limited due to emergency patients and some patients requiring more complex care than predicted, hence experiencing a longer recovery."
RATE OF CANCELLED OPERATIONS STILL HUGHER THAN PLANNED
CANCELLED operation rates remain higher than planned at Derriford Hospital despite years of focus on the problem.
The latest figures show 69 procedures were cancelled on the day of surgery in July.
A hospital report states the main reasons were theatre lists overrunning, emergencies taking priority and poor availability of general beds.
It adds that work is ongoing to improve intensive care availability, pre-operative work and planning.
Derriford managers have been striving to bring down cancelled operation rates to the national standard of 0.8 per cent for more than five years. The July rate was 1.32 per cent.
A hospital spokeswoman said: "We strive to offer the best possible care for all our patients and only consider postponing operations when there is no other suitable clinical alternative."
The hospital recorded among the country's highest number of cancelled operations in 2007/8 – 1,346 planned procedures on the day of surgery. This equated to 2.4 per cent.
The rate dropped to 1.9 per cent in 2009/10 and 1.6 per cent in 2010/11.
Monthly rates dipped to 0.88 in August last year but have since fluctuated.
Efforts to reduce rates come amid Derriford's £54million savings plan over two years – and being designated a major trauma centre.
Cost-saving schemes last year included hospital-wide efficiencies, cutting around 280 posts and closing 130 beds.