East Anglia cancer patients waiting too long for treatment

Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Date: Aug 2014. Picture: MIKE PAGE

Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Date: Aug 2014. Picture: MIKE PAGE - Credit: Mike Page

Hundreds of cancer patients in the region are waiting longer than they should to start treatment amid a 25pc rise in diagnosed cases, new figures reveal today.

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Hundreds of cancer patients in the region are waiting longer than they should to start treatment amid a 25pc rise in diagnosed cases, new figures reveal today.

Around one in five patients with the disease waited longer than two months for treatment at all three of Norfolk's acute hospitals during 2015-16.

This is despite health officials making the issue a key priority last year, when figures showed the same proportion of patients were missing the two-month target.

Under national requirements, hospitals are expected to treat 85pc of patients within 62 days of referral.


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Experts say that the difficulty in meeting this figure is down, in part, to a steep rise in the number of cases.

Since 2013 the number of cancer patients referred to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (N&N), the James Paget Hopsital in Gorleston, and Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn – all of which missed the target – has increased by 25pc.

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Elsewhere in East Anglia, the situation is better. West Suffolk and Ipswich hospitals met the target. Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Addenbrooke's Hospital, missed it. Sara Bainbridge, of Cancer Research, said the waits were unacceptable.

Improving the cancer waiting time was a key aim for N&N managers, yet the health trust missed its target for the second time in a row.

Surgical operational director Jo Segasby said it was 'consistently meeting' a two-week wait target where cancer is suspected, and reasons for missing the 85pc target included more referrals, and the fact the hospital was working at 'full capacity'.

She said action designed to make progress towards meeting the target in 2016-17 included 'additional CT scanning capacity, expanding the workforce to deal with the rise in demand, detailed demand and capacity analysis for all services, and prioritising cancer patients above other patient groups'.

Last year the QEH experienced delays after sending samples to specialist hospitals and introduced eight recommendations from a panel of experts after an investigation.

Despite this, the trust's performance dropped marginally from 84.9pc in 2014-15 to 83.2pc in 2015-16, although 16pc more cancer patients were treated.

Charles Bruce, interim chief operating officer, said the trust had hit the target in the last two quarters of 2015-16, and added it had incorporated the recommendations into its 'redesigned pathways'.

Meanwhile, the JPH achieved the target for 2015-16 despite slipping beneath the 85pc mark early on in the year.

Sue Watkinson, director of operations, said clinical teams had re-prioritised patients waiting for treatment, which helped the trust back on track.

West Suffolk Hospital (87.7pc) and Ipswich Hospital (88.7pc) both hit the target in 2015-16, while Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Addenbrooke's Hospital, missed the target after treating 78.2pc of cancer patients within 62 days of referral. Cross reference to leader

•Have you waited a long time for cancer treatment? Or were you impressed with cancer treatment at our region's hospitals? Email nicholas.carding@archant.co.uk or leave your comments below.

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