Cancer Waiting Times To Be Overhauled In Wales

Government Hopes To Build Clearer Picture Of Treatment Patients Receive

07.05.2014

The Welsh NHS has announced an overhaul of the way cancer waiting times are measured.

Currently, the NHS is judged against two benchmarks, but there have been concerns from doctors that this is not effective and could even lead to hospitals being needlessly penalised when the quality of care patients receive is to an accepted standard.

Currently, patients are placed on two lists known as urgent or non-urgent care pathways after they are diagnosed. A "single cancer pathway" will now be trialled following requests from doctors and it will be measured against the current system.

The pilot began this month and will run until September 30. It will measure performance against the current 31-day and 62-day targets which will continue to be measured.

The Welsh government has said the new measures will give a better picture of whether cancer patients receive timely treatment regardless of how the disease is diagnosed.

At present, 95 per cent of cancer patients should start treatment within 62 days of having their diagnosis confirmed, but in February only 90.5 per cent of people in Wales received their treatment within that time period.

The second benchmark involves patients that do not require urgent care, but have been diagnosed with cancer, with 98 per cent of these people needing to be seen by a doctor within 31 days.

This target was met in February, with 98.2 per cent of patients treated in this time frame.
Welsh NHS hospitals have been the hardest hit by government cuts in recent years, with almost £1.5 billion in efficiencies set to be made in the next four years, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS).

"Successive UK budgets have brought further cuts and, as indicated by the IFS report, all evidence is that there is more to come," the think tank said.

The Welsh government believes that cuts are vital to secure the long-term future of the nation's NHS, as at present debts are rising and the viability of many rural health centres is in doubt.

But opposition parties in the country, including the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru, argue that patients are being put at risk because of the severity of cuts, which has seen numerous hospitals across Wales close in recent months.

Expert Opinion
Cancer patients deserve safe, high quality care, regardless of whether their case has been diagnosed as urgent.

“We hope that this pilot results in patients being treated in a timely manner and ultimately improves survival rates.

“We welcome any reform that looks to improve the standard of care provided to patients and hope that the findings of the pilot are shared throughout the NHS to improve standards across the UK.”
Lisa Jordan, Partner