There has been a surge in the number of operations being cancelled at the last minute by Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust (NDHT).

The trust cancelled 60 non-urgent operations, such as hip or knee surgeries, in the three months to June, the latest period covered by NHS England data.

This was an increase of 28 per cent from the same period in 2017, when there were 47 last minute cancellations.

The data covers cancellations that were due to non-clinical reasons, such as bed or staff shortages.

According to the NHS Constitution, the trust must offer a new date within a maximum period of 28 days after a non-urgent operation, such as hip or knee surgeries, has been cancelled.

If it is unable to do so, it must instead fund the treatment with another hospital and forfeit its payment from the NHS Clinical Commissioning Group that funds healthcare in the area.

However, eight per cent of patients at the Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust were not treated within this 28 day timeframe between April and June.

This is an increase on the previous year, when only two per cent of patients weren’t treated within 28 days.

NDHT said demand on hospital services has been higher than last year, and the snow earlier this year had created difficulties.

A spokesperson for NDHT said: “We know that cancelling non-urgent operations at the last minute can be distressing and frustrating for patients and their families, and we are very sorry for this.

“Demand on our services has been very high this year, higher than last year, and this was made more difficult in March, with two periods of heavy snow making it unsafe or impossible for many staff and patients to travel.

“We do everything we can to try to make sure operations go ahead as planned, but during times of high pressure, we have to focus our resources on our patients needing care most urgently.

“This meant we needed to cancel some non-urgent operations, as did NHS organisations across the country.

“Because our operating lists were fully booked we struggled to rebook all patients within 28 days and we apologise for this.”

The trust said it was working hard to develop a plan for next winter to manage periods of high demand, and was making ‘significant investments’ to run more operating sessions.

Plans for next winter include additional beds from mid-November, which it hopes will help reduce the likelihood of needed to cancel non-urgent operations.