CANCER TREATMENT WAITING TIMES : MORE BAD NEWS !
Posted: Wed Jun 12, 2019 9:27 am
ALSO POSTED IN THE MAIN NHS THREAD :
Cancer patients wait " Unacceptably " long time at three-fifths of NHS trusts, MPs say.
Patients facing " Agonising " waits to start treatment amid a troubling lack of interest from ministers.
Cancer patients in three-fifths of NHS trusts in England are waiting too long for treatment and the devastating effects of delays are being “ignored” by ministers and health service chiefs, MPs have said.
A damning report by the Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said the government and NHS England must regain control over “unacceptable” waiting lists.
It also criticised the “troubling” lack of interest in those left for months without treatment.
Only 38 per cent of NHS trusts and foundation trusts are delivering on the waiting time commitment set in the health service’s mandate to start cancer treatment within 62 days of a GP referral.
Fewer than half are currently meeting the target of carrying out elective care within 18-weeks of a referral – meaning thousands of patients waiting on hip replacements or cataract surgery are being left in pain and at higher risk of falls.
“It is unacceptable that the proportion of patients being treated within NHS waiting times standards is continuing to spiral downwards,” said PAC chair Meg Hillier MP.
“NHS England and the Department of Health and Social Care must regain control.
“The impact on individuals of protracted waiting times cannot be ignored.”
The committee heard from charities that the waits for cancer tests are “agonising”.
Ms Hillier added: “We were troubled by the department’s and NHS England’s approach to waiting times, which seems to be characterised by gaps in understanding of patient harm, hospital capacity and what is driving demand.”
MPs said the government has allowed NHS England “to be selective” over which national standards it focuses on as patient numbers have risen, and health service budgets have failed to keep up.
With pressures at their most acute in A&E departments over winter, those awaiting surgery for less urgent problems have been pushed to the back of the queue and cancer waits have continued to grow, MPs warn.
The NHS is now proposing an overhaul of targets which will instead focus on the most urgent patients, but which critics fear will mean many more patients must wait longer without treatment.
Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: “This is an ongoing and deeply concerning problem with serious consequences for patient care, and it is simply unacceptable for patients to be left in limbo in this way.
“Longer waits always mean more time spent in pain and discomfort, but for some procedures they also reduce the good that the treatment is likely to do for the patient – this must be understood in terms of human cost, not merely numbers, however dramatic.”
Labour shadow health secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, said the report was a reminder that “years of Tory underfunding and understaffing” was creating anxiety and long waits.
“Rather than playing leadership games, it’s time the health secretary focused on his day job and got a grip of the deep problems facing the NHS,” he said.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Over a million NHS patients start planned treatment with a consultant every month, with the majority seen and treated within 18 weeks, and last year 71,000 more people began their cancer treatment than in 2010.
“We’re providing an extra £33.9bn a year by 2023/24 through the NHS Long Term Plan, which will see the health service grow the amount of planned surgery year-on-year and reduce the waiting list.”