Calls for more NHS staff as cancer patient waiting times target not being met

PUBLISHED: 08:44 09 July 2018 | UPDATED: 08:44 09 July 2018

The NHS in our region is failing to hit the treatment waiting time target for cancer patients with urgent referrals from their GPs. Picture: NHS

The NHS in our region is failing to hit the treatment waiting time target for cancer patients with urgent referrals from their GPs. Picture: NHS

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The health service in our region is failing to hit the treatment waiting time target for cancer patients with urgent referrals from their GPs.

Cancer Research UK's Emlyn Samuel is calling on the Government to recruit more cancer staff.Cancer Research UK's Emlyn Samuel is calling on the Government to recruit more cancer staff.

For the East and North Herts Clinical Commissioning Group – which plans and pays for health services in our region – NHS figures show 1,500 cancer patients were referred to hospital urgently by their GPs in 2017/18, but 294 of these patients did not start their treatment within the government standard of 62 days from referral.

This means 80.4 per cent of cancer patients began treatment within two months of referral - below the government target of 85 per cent.

Treatment could include surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy.

While failing to meet the national standard, our CCG is performing better than in 2016/17, when just 76.5 per cent of patients started treatment within the two-month timeframe.

Across England, more than three quarters of CCGs are running below the target.

Nationally, the percentage of patients starting treatment within two months has dropped from 87.1 per cent in 2012/2013, to 82.1 per cent last year.

The operational target hasn’t been hit since 2013.

Emlyn Samuel, head of policy development at Cancer Research UK, is calling on the government to recruit more staff.

He said: “We know hospitals make every effort to meet the target, but shortages in NHS diagnostic staff put services under severe pressure.

“The government must ensure there are more staff to deliver the tests and treatment people need.”

A spokesman for the East and North Herts CCG said: “We know there is still work to do to help more people start their treatment within the two-month timescale.

“We have seen some improvements this year since we introduced clearer patient pathways to make sure diagnostic tests are arranged more quickly and referrals from GPs and between hospital consultants are as smooth as possible.

“NHS organisations in Hertfordshire and West Essex have also bid for around £200,000 of additional funding from the East of England Cancer Alliance to speed up treatment for people with suspected lung and prostate cancer.

“We have also been working with local patients and Cancer Research UK to raise awareness of prevention, identifying early signs and symptoms and encouraging people with suspected cancer to attend all their hospital appointments.”

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