'Unacceptable waits' for hip ops
Elderly patients with broken hips are facing "unacceptable" waits for surgery in some NHS hospitals, according to a report.
While 95% of people with a hip fracture can expect to be operated on within two days, hours in some hospitals, others are forced to wait far longer.
An audit published by the Royal College of Surgeons found large variations in access to hip surgery and to care designed to prevent future falls.
Around 76,000 people fracture their hips every year in the UK, with 92% of cases among people in their 70s, 80s and 90s.
The audit found some hospitals, including Wansbeck Hospital in Northumbria, University Hospital Aintree, and North Tyneside General Hospital, managed to get 95% or more patients through surgery within 48 hours while others, including Charing Cross in London, Derriford Hospital in Plymouth and the Royal Victoria in Belfast only managed about 55%.
Reasons for delay include waiting for space on an operating theatre list, not enough staff, waiting for beds and patients not being medically fit for surgery.
The audit, which covers 129 hospitals in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Channel Islands, said patients could see their health deteriorate while waiting for an operation.
Access to bone strengthening medication and assessment for further falls also varied widely, from 0% of patients in some hospitals to 100% in others.
While there were such variations, the National Hip Fracture Database National Report 2010 said there had been a big improvement in care in recent years.
There was now far greater access to specialist care by geriatricians, screening for osteoporosis and more people now left hospital on bone protection medicine than in the past.