King’s College Hospital becomes first in country to postpone urgent cancer surgery because intensive care beds are full of Covid-19 patients

King’s College Hospital has cancelled urgent cancer surgery today and tomorrow because so many of its intensive care beds are occupied by Covid-19 patients.

Management called off all “priority two” cancer operations it was due to perform – surgery which cancer specialists have judged to be urgent and need to be done within 28 days of the decision to undertake them.

But without intensive care units (ICU) available, such operations are too risky to carry out.

Staff and patients were told over the weekend about the delay, a decision taken because so many ICU beds are occupied by people seriously ill with Covid. 

Some patients may be given chemotherapy as a temporary measure, to try to stop the tumour from growing before they have their rearranged surgery.

King’s College hospital confirmed it had cancelled priority two cancer operations. A spokesperson said: “Due to the large increase in patients being admitted with COVID 19, including those requiring intensive care, we have taken the difficult decision to postpone all elective procedures, with the exception of cases where a delay would cause immediate harm. 

“A small number of cancer patients due to be operated on this week have had their surgery postponed, with patients being kept under close review by senior doctors.”

King’s is thought to be the first NHS hospital to cancel priority two operations as a result of the intense pressures of the second wave of the pandemic.

King’s has also cancelled all leave that staff had booked for this week, blaming severe “operational pressures” due to its surge in Covid admissions.

Even staff who are booked to be on agreed leave this week as “compensation” for working over Christmas and New Year are being asked if “they are able to postpone their leave and return to site”.

It told staff that the situation it is facing may mean it has to cancel staff leave not just this week, but for all of January.

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