Lancashire cancer services are failing to treat patients fast enough

Waiting times for cancer treatment are off target in many of the hospitals in Lancashire.
Waiting times for cancer treatment are off target in many of the hospitals in Lancashire.
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Almost three quarters of health services in England are failing to treat cancer fast enough, according to NHS figures.

In Lancashire all of the NHS Trusts that run cancer services missed the target for having patients treated within two months of being urgently referred by their GP.

All NHS Trusts in England have a target of treating 85 per cent of cancer patients urgently referred by their GP within 62 days.

However, the national average for the proportion of urgent referrals begin treatment within this time period was 79.7 per cent in the 2018-2019 year, according to NHS England.

Three of the trusts performed better than the national average across 2018-2019. The best performance over the period was from the East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, which managed to treat 83.7 per cent of its patients within two months.

This trust is repsonsible for five hospitals: Royal Blackburn Teaching Hospital, Burnley General Teaching Hospital, Clitheroe Community hospital, Accrington Victoria and Pendle Community Hospital

The figures were taken from NHS England, which have a monthly breakdown of the percentage of patients treated within 62 days at each NHS trust between April 2018 and March 2019.

From these monthly figures a yearly average was taken for each trust.

This is how they rank in terms of cancer treatment waiting times (% of patients started treatment in 62 days during 2018-19)

1. East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust - 83.7%

2. Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust - 82.4%

3. Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust - 79.9%

4. University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust - 78.2%

5. Southport and Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust - 78/1%

Responding to the fact that so many trusts missed the target for treating urgently referred patients within two months, an NHS England spokesperson blamed demand for check ups.

The spokesperson said, “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 record 2.2 million people underwent tests last year, up 15 per cent on just 12 months earlier, and nearly 130,000 were treated within the two month target.”

How important is the 62 day target?

The 62 day target was introduced in England in 2008. It is made up of a number of smaller targets that add up to the 62 day total.

These include a 14 day target to see a cancer specialist following a GP referral, and a 31 day maximum wait from the decision to treat to treatment starting.

Whether or not waiting longer than 62 days impacts a person’s health in unknown as much depends on the type of cancer and at what stage it was diagnosed.

However, when setting the targets the government insists that meeting them is important as it eases a patient’s anxiety and lowers the risk of complications.