Staffing and patient transfers problems blamed for health trust’s failure to meet cancer treatment targets

Ali Wilson.
Ali Wilson.

Staffing pressures and delays in transferring patients between different trusts have led to cancer referral delays, a meeting has heard.

Papers for the latest Hartlepool and Stockton CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group) governing body meeting revealed 21 breaches in Hartlepool and Stockton of the 62-day wait for an urgent GP referral for suspected cancer in June.

This gave the CCG a performance of 75% patients treated within 62 days for the month – well below the 85% target set by the Government.

Lisa Tempest, director of planning, performance and assurance at Stockton and Hartlepool CCG, said: “We don’t have the breach information yet for June to understand if there is anything specific there.

“Although we are aware there were some staffing pressures which will have had an impact on that.”

Waiting times for patients awaiting cancer surgery within 31 days were also breached – with six out of 53 patients not treated in time in Hartlepool and Stockton CCG in the year to date.

Ms Tempest said it was the “first time” they’d seen a drop in performance at North Tees for HAST CCG.

“We want to look at further information for that because all trusts seem to be performing but we’ve got some poor performance for HAST in terms of the 31 day surgery,” she added.

“We need to look at the breaches and see if we had a higher number going to other providers on our patch because that does look particularly unusual.”

Ali Wilson, chief health officer at HAST CCG, said the updates “often sounded depressing” with the “same things being brought up every month”.

She added: “I guess it’s because these problems are really difficult to resolve - there is no one thing to put right.

“We also tend to draw on the cancer network and we look for solutions elsewhere – some of the A&E handover delays have been going on quite some time.

“It’s disappointing we come back to the same stuff and it would be great to see a change.”

But she stressed it was the “exceptions” which tended to crop up at meetings.

Ms Wilson added: “What we don’t do is go through all the positive things and there are a lot. We are one of the highest performing regions in the country in terms of our NHS standards.

“It’s not about being complacent, but sometimes I think we need to get this into perspective.

“Sometimes, although we’re failing targets, we forget to check we are seeing improvement there – it’s just they are still showing red at the moment.”