Hundreds of hospital patients in Lancashire have had their operations cancelled at the last minute in the last three months, new figures show.
The Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the Royal Preston Hospital and Chorley Hospital, cancelled 241 non-urgent operations, such as hip or knee surgeries, in the three months to December.
Although this was a decrease from the same period during the previous year, figures show the Trust was the fourth worst performer in the North West, and data showed patients face long waits for operations to be rescheduled.
Fifteen per cent of these procedures were not rescheduled within the mandatory 28-day waiting period - the worst record for the same three month period since 2002-03.
Surgeons warn that delays to surgery can cause harm to patients, and are calling for extra hospital beds to be provided across England.
A spokeswoman for the Royal College of Surgeons said: "Waiting for surgery is a very stressful and worrying time for patients and their families, and such long waits are simply unacceptable.
"The longer patients wait, the more risk there is that their conditions may deteriorate."
A last-minute cancellation is defined as being either on the day that a patient was due to arrive, after the patient has arrived, or on the day of the operation itself.
The data covers cancellations that were for non-clinical reasons, such as bed or staff shortages.
Karen Partington, Chief Executive of Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said, “We review theatre and ward capacity every day, and schedule operations according to clinical priority.
"Despite our best efforts to carry out all procedures as planned, when there is a significant increase the number of seriously ill patients who need emergency care, sometimes we have no option but to postpone some scheduled operations.
“We are sorry that planned operations are sometimes postponed, we know that this causes disruption, inconvenience and anxiety for those patients who are affected. We do everything we can to reschedule postponed procedures as swiftly as possible.
“Within our hospitals we have made a number of improvements in the past year, and have postponed fewer operations this winter than last.
“However, demand for both non urgent and emergency care and treatment is continuously increasing. The Our Health Our Care programme is working on this and other challenges that we face in central Lancashire.
"This includes transforming hospital services so that all patients receive high quality care and treatment without delay, and have a better experience in the future.”