Cancer waiting targets missed across Suffolk and north-east Essex

Targets for cancer treatment have been missing Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO/VILEVI

Targets for cancer treatment have been missing Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO/VILEVI - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

One in five cancer patients in Suffolk and north-east Essex faced a “horrendous” wait of more two months for treatment last year, it has been revealed.

Cancer survivor Katherine Simpson-Jacobs Picture: PAGEPIX

Cancer survivor Katherine Simpson-Jacobs Picture: PAGEPIX

During the 2017/18 financial year, 3,435 people were referred to hospital urgently by their doctors, but 703 did not start their treatment within 62 days, according to NHS figures.

The Government has a target for 85% of people to start cancer care, which may be chemotherapy, surgery or radiation therapy, in this time frame.

This target was missed in the Ipswich and East Suffolk, West Suffolk and North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCGs) areas in 2017/18.

Katherine Simpson-Jacobs, 46 and from Ipswich, was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2013, and has been in remission for four years.

While she received treatment very quickly, Mrs Simpson-Jacobs, a teacher at St Joseph’s College, said a delay would have been difficult to cope with.

“It would be horrendous to have to wait for a long time,” said Mrs Simpson-Jacobs, who has written a book to help parents break the news of a diagnosis to children.

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“It’s just nerve-wracking and you want to make sure you are getting on with treatment as soon as possible.

“It’s the not knowing that is the worst. Once you know what you are dealing with you can just get on and deal with it, but if you don’t know that is incredibly stressful and it’s not good for your state of mind going into treatment and going into recovery.”

In North East Essex 74.3% of patients began treatment within two months of referral, well below the NHS target.

A spokeswoman for the CCG said it was working with care providers and partners to “redesign pathways” and promote earlier diagnosis and treatments for cancer. She added the organisation was improving survival rates by following national best practice.

In Ipswich and East Suffolk 81.3% of cancer patients received treatment within 62 days. In West Suffolk it was 84.6%, despite West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust achieving 86.68%.

A spokesman for the two CCGs said reasons for untimely care could have included winter pressures or patients choosing to delay treatment. He added performance had already improved so far this year.

Emlyn Samuel, head of policy development at Cancer Research UK, said: “Waiting for tests or to start treatment can be an anxious time for patients, so the Government must ensure that there are more staff to deliver the tests and treatment that people need.”

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