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King's Lynn hospital failing to reach cancer care wait target, figures show

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Three in 10 cancer patients are not treated within the target time at Lynn’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital, new NHS data reveals.

Queen Elizabeth Hospital King's Lynn (11734581)
Queen Elizabeth Hospital King's Lynn (11734581)

NHS targets state that 85 per cent of patients should be treated within 62 days of an urgent GP referral for cancer.

But NHS England data shows that only 70.9 per cent of patients treated in April waited for less than two months at QEH - compared to 87.4 per cent three years earlier.

It means 20 people were not treated within the target period. Of those, 14 waited at least 77 days.

By cancer type, the proportion of patients being treated in April within two months of a referral at the QEH was breast cancer 97 per cent, lung cancer 18 per cent, skin cancer 86 per cent, urological cancer, excluding testicular, 68 per cent, lower gastrointestinal cancer 25 per cent.

Denise Smith, the QEH’s chief operating officer, said: “Making sure that patients have timely access to cancer care is a top priority for the trust.

“We are working with our clinical teams, and in partnership with colleagues across the region, to redesign cancer pathways, such as creating one-stop services, to ensure patients are diagnosed as quickly as possible and a treatment plan is agreed.

“We recognise that we have further work to do to get this right for all of our patients, all of the time, but we are committed to making these improvements as quickly as we can.”

Prof Steve Barnett, QEH board chairman, last Thursday told the West Norfolk Council Lynn Area Consultative Committee, that the hospital is now meeting seven out of eight cancer-treatment targets and was now looking close at how to meet the 62-day requirement.

Across the NHS, 79.4 per cent of cancer patients in April were treated within 62 days following an urgent referral for suspected cancer, down from 82.8 per cent in 2016.

That means 2,708 people in England had to wait more than two months.

A spokesman for the Royal College of Surgeons said long waiting times may cause cancer patients’ health to deteriorate, making surgery less effective.

He said: “It is utterly unacceptable that only 38 per cent of NHS trusts and foundation trusts are meeting the 62-day standard for referral to treatment for cancer.

“Staff are working as hard as they can to provide timely care, however, demand for cancer treatment is growing and the NHS is struggling to keep up with this.

“The RCS has called for a five-year plan to help hospitals deal with the backlog of patients that are waiting for treatment, including those that require surgery to treat cancer.

“This plan should include directing some of the money promised to the NHS to increasing the resources and staff needed to treat patients in a timely manner.”

Dr Moira Fraser-Pearce, director of policy and campaigns at Macmillan Cancer Support, said new figures show how short-staffed the NHS is.

She added: “These consistently missed targets for cancer waiting times are indicative of the overstretched NHS workforce, which is struggling to cope faced with increasing patient need and unreasonable workloads.

“People living with cancer cannot wait for the current political turmoil to blow over before more funding for cancer services comes in.”

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