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The leader of the country's busiest women's health hospital service has issued an extraordinary plea for help - saying distressed doctors are turning down desperate patients because of a lack of capacity.

Middlemore Hospital's clinical director of women's health, Dr Sarah Tout, was blunt in describing why the Government must step up.

Women with "non urgent" but nonetheless serious and often debilitating gynaecological conditions, including suspected endometriosis, incontinence, pelvic pain and prolapse, are declined because of a lack of theatre capacity.

Urgent cases include women critically ill or with potentially life-threatening conditions like cancer. Others are sent back to their