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Leicestershire Centre for Integrated Living

The worst places for cancer care waits revealed

Date: 13/6/2019
Summary: Nearly three-quarters of services are failing to treat cancer patients quickly enough, BBC research shows.

Hospitals are meant to start treatment within 62 days of an urgent referral by a GP in 85% of cases.

But 94 out of 131 cancer services in England failed to do that during 2018-19 - compared with 36 five years ago.

The worst performer was Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust, which saw fewer than 61% of patients within 62 days.

Bosses there said they had seen a surge in demand - above what other services had seen.

The trust said it had invested in extra staff and hoped to start hitting the target during the summer.

Other services have pointed to increased demand too, with the biggest regional centres seeing the most complex cases that tend to take longest.

But cancer charities said long waits put patients at risk.

Moira Fraser-Pearce, of Macmillan Cancer Support, said it was clear the service was "too stretched".

"The longer people have to wait for diagnosis and get treatment, the longer it will impact them, their health and wellbeing and just getting through that experience," she said.

Overall, across England, more than 32,000 patients waited longer than 62 days for treatment to start.

The worst waits (% of patients started treatment in 62 days during 2018-19)

And the best

A total of 63 trusts have gone from hitting the target five years ago to now missing it, with Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells having fallen the furthest.

Cancer was one of the priorities in the 10-year plan for the NHS unveiled earlier this year as part of the increase in investment being made in the health service.

The long-term plan made speeding up diagnosis a key focus - this is considered a major bottleneck in the system.

Rapid diagnostic centres - where patients can see a range of specialists in one place - are being rolled out.

Meanwhile, investment is being made in new scanners.

Details of plans to boost the number of doctors and nurses in the system are expected to be unveiled later in the year.

But NHS England said the health service was doing well in the circumstances, adding services had had to cope with a 15% increase in urgent referrals in the past year.

"Cancer survival is at an all-time high in England and that is because the NHS continues to put itself under pressure by ramping up the number of people who get checked so that more cancers are caught early when they are easier to treat," a spokeswoman added.

Source: BBC

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