Hospitals Failing To Meet Targets As Cancer Referrals Increase

NHS Trusts Are Struggling To Meet Cancer Treatment Targets

22.09.2014

UK hospitals managed by NHS Trusts are failing to meet targets for treating patients with cancer, as GPs refer more and more people they suspect have the condition for such care.

Figures from government body Monitor show that during the first quarter of 2014, 18,200 individuals were referred by their family doctor for cancer treatment, marking an increase of eight per cent from the same period last year, when the number was 16,900.

Overall, referrals for the condition have increased significantly during the past five years, with figures from Cancer Research UK published earlier this month showing they have risen by around 50 per cent during this time.

Hospitals are set a 62-week target for ensuring such patients receive treatment for the disease within this time frame, but statistics reveal they only met this for 84.7 per cent of people.

Although Monitor states this is the first time the NHS has missed this target, it does raise the question of exactly how long the remaining 15 per cent of patients had to wait until they received cancer treatment, especially as 27 Trusts were found to breach this during the three-month period. This is in contrast to just eight who failed to reach the target last year.

However, targets for cancer screenings were met, indicating that the NHS is still performing strongly in some aspects of the disease's treatment.

Medical experts have said it is not particularly surprising that the health service is failing to comply with some of its targets, as there are significant problems with under-staffing, resources, funding and increases in patients, leading to added pressure.

Chair of the British Medical Association Council Dr Mark Porter commented: "This is extremely worrying … services are stretched to breaking point, targets are being missed during the summer months when the NHS is not subject to seasonal spikes demand and waiting lists are at a six-year high. We cannot continue to meet rising demand on the health service with under-funding."

Expert Opinion
The early diagnosis and treatment of cancer plays a significant role in patients’ chances of surviving and recovering from the disease. Therefore, the findings of this report are extremely worrying, as it shows a significant number of cancer sufferers are not being treated within the target of 62 weeks and that the number of hospitals failing to meet targets in this area is increasing.

“We have seen first-hand the consequences for patients if they are not given the treatment they require in an appropriate time frame. It is vital a thorough investigation is carried out into the quality of cancer care in the UK to identify the reasons behind such long waiting times for patients to receive the treatment they require. We hope that any failings are resolved quickly and cancer patients are reassured that everything possible is being done to ensure they can access the care they need quickly.”
Lisa Jordan, Partner