Data released by Cancer Research UK in June 2016 indicates that the Welsh NHS is failing to meet cancer treatment targets and is failing to adequately address the challenges of late cancer diagnosis and care.
In a comprehensive report into how the Welsh NHS are dealing with cancer treatment targets, the charity makes a number of urgent recommendations for improvement and implores the Welsh government to change its attitudes to the complex issue.
Cancer Treatment Targets Consistently Missed
Key findings in the report point to the fact that cancer treatment waiting times targets – which effectively gauge the efficiency of treatment centres in meeting increased demand – have consistently been missed across the country. The Welsh NHS’s own targets for patients given an urgent cancer treatment referral state that 95% should begin treatment within 62 days – a figure that has not been met since 2008, with performance in the last quarter of 2015 rated at just 83.7%. Of similar concern, targets for patients referred via the non-urgent route state that 98% should begin treatment within 31 days, a figure that has not been achieved since 2014, although 2015’s final quarter performance was close to this, at 97.5%.
The charity also found that patients are too often left waiting excessive periods for the results of cancer diagnosis tests; which is particularly worrying considering the risks associated with the effect that delayed cancer diagnosis has on patient mortality. Other risk factors include the fact that the availability of radiotherapy equipment is “patchy”, and access too often dependant on where in Wales a patient resides.
Cancer Research UK Urges Rethink on Individual Patient Funding Requests
The report suggests an entirely new strategy for dealing with the increased strain placed on cancer services in Wales during recent years. Cancer Research UK urges the Welsh NHS to reconsider a 2014 decision not to introduce a national decision-making panel to preside over Individual Patient Funding Requests and methods to increase access to cutting edge treatment programs. The charity also recommends an entirely fresh approach to commissioning specialist treatments like radiotherapy, chemotherapy and low-volume surgery, with an aim to improve coordination and availability nationwide. Concerns are also raised in relation to record-keeping on treatments like chemotherapy and radiotherapy, with a greater need for comprehensive, up-to-date figures so as to effectively contribute to the annual cancer report.
19,000 New Cancer Diagnoses Every Year
The Welsh NHS is failing to meet cancer treatment targets, and the situtaion is likely to get worse. Wales now faces up to 19,000 new cancer diagnoses every year, a figure up almost 14% in the decade leading up to 2014. Cancer Research UK’s report is particularly poignant in light of this, with key health officials recognising the need to tackle the problems associated with delayed diagnosis of cancer in the country.
Clinical Director of the Velindre Cancer Centre in Cardiff; Tom Crosby issued the following statement in relation to the report:
“…We will need to better raise awareness of cancer, diagnose it earlier, ensure timely access to effective treatment and even better support for patients through and beyond that treatment. By taking this opportunity we can transform patient outcomes and experience.”
Cancer Research UK’s Chief Executive Sir Harpal Kumar is also quoted as saying:
“This report paints a worrying picture, from cancer experts, of NHS cancer services in Wales reaching a tipping point.”
Our Thoughts on the Findings
Commenting on the report, Christopher Livingston, clinical negligence lawyer at Blackwater Law clinical negligence solicitors, said:
“This report into the state of cancer diagnoses and care in Wales is worrying, in particular the issues of delayed cancer test results and the long-term failure to meet targets relating to an urgent referral to see a cancer specialist and that appointment taking place. This clearly introduces unnecessary delays into cancer diagnosis and treatment that would worry the patient and their family.”
If you or someone you love has suffered as a result of delayed or misdiagnosis of cancer, in Wales or England, you may be entitled to medical negligence compensation. Contact Blackwater Law clinical negligence solicitors today for free initial advice. Call 0800 083 5500 and speak to a specialist today.