This article was published on April 1st, 2015
People are living longer and now national data predicts that 50% of people are expected to have to battle cancer at some stage in their lives. To increase chances of survival, cancer needs to be diagnosed quickly and treated quickly. Some cancers are so aggressive that delays to treatment can mean the difference between life and death which is why the NHS has strict targets on diagnosis and treatment.
If a GP suspects that a patient may have a cancer then they immediately refer them to Hospital for more accurate tests to confirm diagnosis, which should happen within 14 days of referral. This is not happening in Lincolnshire where the 14 day targets are being missed.
Between October 2014 and January 2015, only 88.8 per cent of patients in the county were seen within the two-week target -The government expects the figures to be at least 93 per cent. More alarmingly the figures for suspected breast cancer patients showed only 58.5% of patients were seen within 14 days.
Health bosses blame increases in demand, tight budgets and staff shortages but is this the case?
Chief executive at Healthwatch Lincolnshire, Sarah Fletcher, said:
“These stats are alarming and concerning with regard to patients’ safety and their ability to access treatment. There’s more work that needs to be done around how patients are supported, and the need for patients to get treatment and assessment as early as possible.
“Early diagnosis is absolutely essential with cancer.
“Patients in Lincolnshire need to be able to access services and issues such as transport are a major concern.
“If someone’s referred to an appointment out of the county then they need to work out how they are going to get there.
“Faced with a lengthy journey, on top of having to sit there and go through their diagnoses and having to come back home, it’s a daunting prospect for everyone.
“So the process needs to be as simple and as supportive as possible.”
The United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust blames the increased number of cancer referrals and ongoing staffing issues for not hitting targets:
Michelle Rhodes, Trust Ops Director, said:
“The trust has a number of unfilled vacancies for radiologists. The main obstacle to achieving faster results and treatment is this severe shortage.
“This is a national problem, and the trust is working hard to recruit radiologists from other countries.
“We have recently appointed three consultant radiologists who start working for the trust from March and we continue to recruit from aboard.
“This increase in senior doctors will help us meet targets in the future.”
According to the Trust there has been an unprecedented increase in the number of GP referrals with a 51 per cent from 2009 to 2014 within the East Midlands.
“Both of these factors have placed increased pressure on services. This increase in senior clinical staffing will help the trust to meet the NHS constitutional standards in the future.”
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