Hartlepool is failing to meet the NHS standard for patients awaiting potentially life-saving cancer tests, claims a national charity.
Bowel Cancer UK says 34 hospitals in the North of England and Yorkshire and the Humber do not meet the NHS standard of less than one per cent of patients waiting more than six weeks for tests, including North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust.
The charity has reported that 24% of patients are waiting more than six weeks for flexible sigmoidoscopy appointments and 15.3 per cent for colonoscopy.
Now it is warning the latest waiting times published by NHS England show demand for tests is outstripping capacity and many hospitals do not have the capacity to meet the growing demand for these services.
Asha Kaur, head of policy and campaigns at Bowel Cancer UK, said: “These waiting time figures present a worrying picture for patients and demonstrates the urgent need for the Government to make addressing this crisis a national priority.
“If hospitals are expected to meet waiting time targets, then they must be given the resources and capacity to enable them to meet these standards.
If hospitals are expected to meet waiting time targets, then they must be given the resources and capacity to enable them to meet these standards.Asha Kaur
“The Government must get to grips with tackling this problem. It is crucial urgent progress is made as increasing demand for services is putting hospitals under unprecedented pressure because they simply do not have the capacity to meet this demand.
“Rather than rhetoric, what we need is a comprehensive action plan to finally deal with this long-standing crisis in diagnostic services for bowel cancer.
“Simply ignoring it won’t make it go away.”
Bowel cancer is the second biggest cancer killer, but is treatable and curable, especially if diagnosed early.
More than nine in 10 (98%) will survive for five years or more if they are diagnosed at the first stage, but currently only 15% actually are.
The charity says these tests can detect cancer at the earliest stage of the disease, when it is more treatable, and even prevents cancer through the removal of pre-cancerous growths (polyps) during the procedures. It added that nearly everyone diagnosed at the earliest stage of bowel cancer will survive, but this drops significantly as the disease develops, so timely access is vital.
Bosses at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust have not yet released a comment on the figures.