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Hospitals cancelling 'unprotected' cancer ops - RCS president

A "large number" of hospitals are cancelling cancer operations this winter, the president of the Royal College of Surgeons has said, revealing the extent of the NHS crisis.

Clare Marx said cancer surgery was no longer protected in the health service and hospitals had been cancelling operations since the beginning of the year.

She told the Observer: "Historically, they have been protected due to their urgent nature.

"However, feedback from our members suggests that since the start of January, a large number of hospitals across the UK are now cancelling cancer surgery.

"It is increasingly clear that no part of the system and no patient is immune from the pressure the NHS is experiencing."

Conservative MP Dr Sarah Wollaston, chairwoman of the health select committee, accused the Government of "pretty dismal stuff" by "scapegoating" GPs for the pressures, after the Prime Minister expressed frustration at surgeries' opening hours.

Among the issues, Dr Wollaston blamed a "financial squeeze" during the last parliament while demand increased.

"Public & NHS staff deserved better than scapegoating, smoke & mirrors. Needs to start with honest discussion of the background pressures," the MP for Totnes tweeted.

The latest comments come after more than four in 10 hospitals in England declared a major alert in the first week of 2017 and the Red Cross said the NHS is in the middle of a "humanitarian crisis".

An NHS England spokesman said: "Everyone in the NHS will be pulling out all the stops to make sure all patients get their surgery as quickly as possible.

"There has been a steady increase in operations over the last 15 years, but despite this the NHS is helping more people survive cancer than ever before."

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "We know that the NHS is under increased pressure at the moment and we are grateful to NHS staff who are working tirelessly to ensure that patients receive the very best care.

"NHS England has assured us that trusts are prioritising urgent operations and treatments whilst taking steps to alleviate additional winter demand."

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