Rise in patients waiting 104 days or more for cancer treatment
- Credit: Rachel Edge
The number of patients who have waited 104 days or more for cancer treatment at Suffolk and Essex’s health trust increased by almost 50% in a month, new figures have revealed.
A report published ahead of an East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT) board meeting today, reveals the number of patients referred by a GP for suspected cancer who have waited 104 days or more for treatment had increased "significantly", from 69 in August 2019 to 117 in September 2019 - a rise of 48%.
The figures show that the number had risen dramatically from last year, from just 39 patients in that position in September 2018.
The report also reveals a decline in cancer performance in regards to the maximum 62-day pathway for first treatment after diagnosis by a GP.
In September the figure stood at 73.7%, down from 77.2% the month before.
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This figure is below the national target of 85% and also below the trust's own trajectory target of 74%.
'It is a very scary time after you have been diagnosed.'
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Gareth Grayston, from Ipswich, who survived bowl cancer after receiving a late diagnosis, said it is a frightening experience waiting for treatment.
He said: "It is quite shocking to hear those statistics, it's sad really.
"With cancer, the earlier it is known about and treated the higher your chances of survival.
"After my diagnosis, they thankfully dealt with me very quickly.
"But I remember thinking just get this out of me
"I just wanted to get through it.
"I know doctors are under a lot of pressure and there is strain with money in the NHS but you would think with something as severe as cancer they would have a protocol in place to make sure you are treated quickly.
"It is a very scary time after you have been diagnosed.
"It is knowing at the back of your mind that the sooner you get seen and treated the better your chances of survival."
'This can be a very concerning and stressful time for patients'
Andy Yacoub, chief executive of Healthwatch Suffolk, said: "It is disappointing that cancer waits remain below the national targets and that the numbers of people waiting longer than they should has increased to such a degree.
"We must recognise that this can be a very concerning and stressful time for patients and their families and people have the right to expect to wait no more than two months between the date their hospital receives an urgent referral for suspected cancer and the start of their treatment.
"The Trust would help its patients by being transparent about the challenges it is facing, explaining why these delays are happening and also what is being done to resolve them.
"Cancer services are a local priority for the Suffolk and North East Essex health and care system and as such we will be actively working to support any engagement on the future of services and how patients feel they could be improved.
"In the meantime, we would encourage people using the services to share their experiences with us so that we can use them to challenge, shape and improve them now and for the future."
'Our teams are dedicated to improving cancer performance for our patients'
Neill Moloney, Deputy Chief Executive of the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust said he was sorry the trust had not met national standards.
He said: "We are still facing real challenges in meeting all of the national access standards for cancer care consistently and are sorry that this is the case.
"There are two main reasons for this. The first is increasing demand with 30% more referrals in cancer services at our Trust. The second is a nationwide shortage of specialist clinical staff in the NHS who are able to lead specialist cancer treatments. One example of this is a national shortage of staff in breast radiology.
"Our teams are dedicated to improving cancer performance for our patients.
"We have a plan to get our performance back to where it needs to be so we can meet the national cancer standards. This plan has been approved by our regulators and commissioners and is reviewed and updated each week".