A PENSIONER’S live-saving cancer surgery was cancelled at the last minute to free up beds for potential coronavirus patients, it has been claimed.

Pauline Hinton, who lives in Ramsey, was diagnosed with a tumour on her lungs three weeks ago after she developed breathing difficulties.

The 74-year-old was referred to Colchester Hospital, then the Essex Cardiothoracic Centre in Basildon Hospital.

About ten days ago Ms Hinton’s longtime friends Steve and Debbie McFarlane took her to Basildon Hospital.

Mr McFarlane said Ms Hinton’s consultant said the tumour was caught just in time and assured her it was treatable and potentially curable with surgery.

“Pauline was upbeat about the surgery,”Mr McFarlane, 70, added.

She was booked in for a wedge resection - a surgical procedure to remove the tumour - at the hospital for Monday.

The operation was then moved to yesterday as training for the coronavirus was taking place on Monday.

But Ms Hinton’s operation was cancelled on Tuesday morning.

Mr McFarlane said: “The hospital said it would call back by midday on Tuesday but it got to 2pm and Pauline was frantic so she called to asked what an earth was going on.

“The patient co-ordinator said all the surgery was called off as the hospital wanted to free up beds in case they needed them for coronavirus patients.”

Mr McFarlane said he was furious Ms Hinton’s operation was not going ahead as beds were “potentially” needed for future Covid-19 patients.

Ms Hinton was referred back to Colchester Hospital and is now waiting to hear what will happen regarding her surgery.

Mr McFarlane said: “People don’t stop getting cancer or strokes just because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“This virus is extremely serious, however, it is something we will get over.

“A large number of people will die but a large number of people are dying from other diseases like cancer.”

Ms Hinton said coronavirus is not finishing anytime soon.

“I have had a fairly good life, but to be cast aside like this before my surgery is worrying,” she said.

“How will I be looked after in the meantime?

“I think the operation will be cancelled indefinitely.”

But Ms Hinton said she is a “tough old bird” who has lived through a lot.

She said: “I am not a defeatist and I don’t want to waste my energy worrying about what I can’t change.”

A spokesman for Mid and South Essex University Hosptial Group said: "In line with national guidance we have cancelled all of our routine elective care activity.

"We continue to prioritise cancer treatment and urgent clinical care cases.

"Cancer clinics are now being carefully assessed and based on their clinical risk, they will either be brought into our hospitals for a face-to-face appointment or they will have their appointment via telephone.’

A statement from East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust chief executive Nick Hulme stated all non-clinically urgent planned surgery and day cases were cancelled from March 18.

He said: “At this stage we are not able to give you a date for when we can rearrange your surgery but will be back in touch as soon as we are able.”

However, a spokesman for the trust said emergency admissions including cancer treatment and other clinically urgent care should continue unaffected.

Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust, in London, also announced it will be postponing cancer operations and chemotherapy for at least two weeks.