Cancer operation put off three times due to lack of ICU beds

Gillian Crawford requires an ICU bed following a complex procedure that can only be done in Scotland at Ninewells Hospital.

Cancer operation put off three times due to lack of ICU beds Family handout

A Perth cancer patient has had surgery cancelled three times due to a lack of intensive care beds at Ninewells.

Gillian Crawford requires an ICU bed for a couple of days following a complex procedure that can only be done in Scotland at the Dundee hospital.

After having her procedure cancelled for the third time, Ms Crawford is now going to travel 266 miles to the next closest specialist centre in Manchester.

Ms Crawford, 48, was diagnosed with appendix cancer and had a large tumour removed in April earlier this year.

The insurance sales manager was told the cancer had spread to other parts of her abdomen and was given six rounds of chemotherapy from July to September.

She is now awaiting HIPEC surgery that can only be done in Ninewells in Scotland.

The hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) surgery is a procedure to treat certain cancers in the abdomen.

After the tumours are surgically removed, heated chemotherapy drugs are pumped directly into the abdomen to remove remaining cancerous cells.

Ms Crawford said: “I felt very lucky to be based in Tayside and have a surgeon who can do this procedure. My surgeon is the only guy in Scotland who can do it.”

Ms Crawford was also full of praise for the NHS Tayside staff.

She said: “They have all been amazing and done what they could to try and get me a bed.”

But due to her case being classed as elective surgery rather than an emergency she has not been prioritised for an ICU bed.

The pandemic has created more of a shortage of intensive care beds with Ninewells having to staff and operate two separate ICUs.

Ms Crawford’s first operation was scheduled for November 11 and after having gone through a gruelling 12-hour pre-op the day before she was told at 9am on the morning of her surgery it had been cancelled.

She said: “In the morning I got gowned up to go to theatre and then the surgeon walked in frowning. It was horrific.”

Another date was scheduled a week later but cancelled. A third date was scheduled for December 6. On Friday, Ms Crawford was told it too had been cancelled.

Ms Crawford and husband Craig, who she recently married in October, are both devastated.

She said: “I’m so distressed about it. I don’t have the luxury of time.”

Ms Crawford’s surgeon has been doing all he can to help.

She said: “My surgeon said he would clear his diary to do it because it was beginning to get into dangerous territory.”

After being prevented from being able to do the procedure for the third time, he asked Ms Crawford if she would be willing to travel to the next closest specialist centre.

She said: “I appreciate everything he is doing for me. He said ‘if we can get you Manchester, will you go?’

“I said, ‘reluctantly, yes’.”

Ms Crawford, mum to 19-year-old twins and three stepchildren, is now awaiting confirmation of a date for the procedure to be done in Manchester.

A spokesperson for NHS Tayside said: “Due to patient confidentiality, we are unable to comment on matters relating to individual patients.

“Our clinicians continue to be in direct contact with the patient and her family and the team has worked hard to put arrangements in place for her treatment to be carried out elsewhere.

“Patient safety is our priority and our clinical teams must be satisfied that intensive care support is available for a patient following a pre-planned operation if required. This includes a bed being available in the intensive care unit along with the dedicated team of very highly skilled staff who look after the patients.

“Due to the unpredictable nature of emergencies, on some occasions there are unfortunately no ICU beds available. As a result, in the interest of patient safety, the clinical team must make the difficult decision to postpone someone’s planned procedure.

“Any decision to defer a procedure is always taken by clinicians as a last resort. The clinical teams try their very best to minimise any disruption to our planned procedures as we appreciate that this is both very upsetting and inconvenient for patients and their families.”

By local democracy reporter Kathryn Anderson

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