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Cancer operations are usually protected against cancellations because they are often urgent, yet there has been an increasing trend in the NHS to cancel them.

The winter crisis faced by all hospitals has forced these cancellations from December and their numbers have accelerated ever since.

The Times interviews one patient, Andy Claridge, was due to have cancer surgery on January 7 at Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust, but it was cancelled the day before.

He said: “My consultant said cancelling cancer operations was unprecedented. I had mentally prepared for surgery and I felt completely defeated.

“The cancellation was blamed on a lack of beds.”

Leeds Teaching Hospital Trust said it was trying to reschedule the operation.

Clare Marx, president of the Royal College of Surgeons, told The Observer: “Historically, they [cancer operations] 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 heartbreaking for a surgeon to have to explain to a patient who has cancer that their operation has had to be cancelled as there are no beds available,” she continued.

Bed blocking has been a rising concern all last year. NHS figures show that in November 2015 39,457 days were spent in hospital by patients who could not be discharged due to the lack of social care.

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