Hospital trust fails to reach target to start treatment on suspected cancer patients

University Hospital of North Tees.
University Hospital of North Tees.

Almost a quarter of urgent cancer patients are facing waits of more than two months to start treatment at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS trust.

New figures show that, as of June, 23.3% of patients who had been urgently referred by their GP to the trust with suspected cancer had been waiting more than two months to start treatment.

The Government’s target is that 15% or less have to wait this long.

Lynne Taylor, director of planning and performance at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Our trust is committed to providing quality, timely care for our patients and has a good track record of delivering above the national and local requirements.

"The complexity of cancer pathways, which often require multiple tests and treatments which may be delivered across more than one hospital provider, can result in extended patient journeys.

“There is also an element of patient choice, where patients may choose to delay offered appointments, tests or treatments for a number of personal reasons.”

Across England, a fifth of patients (20.8%) who were urgently referred by their GPs with cancer symptoms waited more than two months from referral to starting treatment in June – the worst performance since records began in October 2009.

Emlyn Samuel, head of policy at Cancer Research UK, said: “Every two minutes someone is diagnosed with cancer in the UK and these figures show that staff are struggling to meet such high demand.

“To diagnose more cancers early – so that patients have a better chance of survival – we need to carry out more tests.

“This relies on the NHS having enough staff, so it’s critical that Health Education England’s plan to fill short term cancer workforce gaps is implemented without delay.

“By 2035, 150,000 more people will be diagnosed with cancer every year compared to 2015.

“To match cancer survival in the best performing countries the Government must produce a fully-funded, long-term workforce plan to ensure that enough staff are trained to meet the rising number of cancer cases.”

Alex Metcalfe , Local Democracy Reporting Service