THE number of operations being cancelled at East Lancashire hospitals due to bed shortages trebled in 12 months.

In 2012/13, 595 non-emergency operation were cancelled, compared to 194 in 2011/12, figures released under the Freedom of Information Act revealed.

Health bosses said 60 per cent of the cancellations occurred during December and February, and blamed cold winters for an increase in hospital admissions.

But the figures were slammed by a leading health campaigner at Pennine Lancashire Patient Voices Group.

Chairman Russ McLean said: “I have to say that’s an appalling situation really, especially for people who are waiting for operations like hip and knee replacements.

“Everybody understands our hospitals are under enormous pressure, but I don’t think that’s any excuse.”

In 2009/10, 180 elective - or non-emergency operations - were cancelled, compared to 328 in 2010/11. The figure was 723 for 2008/09.

Val Bertenshaw, director of operations at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, said poor winters in 2010 and 2012 had led to the increases. She said: “Hospital bed pressure increases particularly in winter as patients attending the emergency department and urgent care centres increase, therefore impacting on elective admissions.

“Significant increases in cancellations seen in 2008/09 and 2012/13 were due to particularly challenging years for the trust in terms of coping with challenging winter pressures which was reflected in NHS organisations across the UK.”

But Mr McLean said: “As far as I understand, the winter plan is put in place every year at this time, so there’s a plan in place now for next year.

“So these things should have been taken into account, and I don’t think hospitals have been any busier this year than last, so I think it’s a bit of a red herring.”