Cancelled surgeries and payment by results in the English National Health Service

Bryan McIntosh*, Graham Cookson, Simon Jones

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: To model the frequency of 'last minute' cancellations of planned elective procedures in the English NHS with respect to the patient and provider factors that led to these cancellations.

Methods: A dataset of 5,288,604 elective patients spell in the English NHS from January 1st, 2007 to December 31st, 2007 was extracted from the Hospital Episode Statistics. A binary dependent variable indicating whether or not a patient had a Health Resource Group coded as S22 - 'Planned elective procedure not carried out' - was modeled using a probit regession estimated via maximum likelihood including patient, case and hospital level covariates.

Results: Longer waiting times and being admitted on a Monday were associated with a greater rate of cancelled procedures. Male patients, patients from lower socio-economic groups and older patients had higher rates of cancelled procedures. There was significant variation in cancellation rates between hospitals; Foundation Trusts and private facilities had the lowest cancellation rates.

Conclusions: Further research is needed on why Foundation Trusts exhibit lower cancellation rates. Hospitals with relatively high cancellation rates should be encouraged to tackle this problem. Further evidence is needed on whether hospitals are more likely to cancel operations where the procedure tariff is lower than the S22 tariff as this creates a perverse incentive to cancel. Understanding the underlying causes of why male, older and patients from lower socio-economic groups are more likely to have their operations cancelled is important to inform the appropriate policy response. This research suggests that interventions designed to reduce cancellation rates should be targeted to high-cancellation groups. Journal of Health Services Research & Policy Vol 17 No 2, 2012: 79-86 (C) The Royal Society of Medicine Press Ltd 2012

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-86
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Health Services Research and Policy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2012




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