The winter beds crisis has left surgeons going ‘days at a time’ without performing operations, health groups have warned.

In a letter to the Sunday Times, Claire Marx, President of the Royal College of Surgeons, and Chris Hopson, Chief Executive of NHS Providers, said surgeons at hospitals in England are being left ‘kicking their heels’ due to operations being cancelled because of shortages of beds.

The letter said: “Because of bed shortages, staff including surgeons are now sometimes left kicking their heels, waiting for beds to become available so they can operate.

“Too often managers, nurses and doctors waste time trying to find somewhere to look after patients. At a time when the NHS is being told to make the most of its resources, this is a shocking waste.

“At a time when the NHS is being told to make the most of its resources this is a shocking waste.”

Bed occupancy should not exceed 85% to minimise the risk of infections and delays in getting treatment, however the letter revealed 89% were regularly occupied.

The number of operations cancelled by the NHS in England hit a 15-year high last year, with 82,730 of planned operations being cancelled at the last minute for non-clinical reasons – a third higher than in 2010.

The leaders of the Royal College of Surgeons of England and NHS Providers, are calling for a review of what can be done to reduce the pressure.

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