Northamptonshire hospitals beating new government targets on cancer diagnosis waiting times

More than eight in ten referrals getting diagnosis or all-clear within 28 days

By Patrick Jack, Data Reporter
Tuesday, 17th May 2022, 12:36 pm

Medics at both Northamptonshire’s two main hospitals are beating new key cancer diagnosis targets in every month since it was first introduced.

But cancer charities say the government still needs to invest more in the NHS and raise targets to stop thousands being "left in limbo."

Ministers brought in a new faster diagnostic standard last year demanding that 75 percent of people on certain cancer-related referrals get either a diagnosis or the all-clear within 28 days.

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More than eight in ten patients got either a cancer diagnosis or the all-clear within 28 days of a referral at NGH and KGH in March

Monthly NHS England figures show that between October and March, Northampton General Hospital NHS Trust met this target every time.

In March – the most recent data available – the trust got back to 81.6 percent of its 1,606 patients within 28 days, though this was down from 82 percent in February.

At Kettering General Hospital, the trust got back to 86.4 percent of its 1,143 patients within 28 days, again down slightly from 87.6 percent the month before.

Cancer Research UK says an average of 65,4000 people across England are waiting too long to find out whether or not they have cancer every month.

The 75 percent target has not been reached yet nationally – and fell to just 73.1 percent in the most recent month.

Charity chief executive Michelle Mitchell urged people to see their GP if they notice ANY unusual changes to their health as cancer diagnosed at an early stage is more likely to be treated successfully.

But she called on the Government to do more, adding: “Cancer waiting targets have been missed for years and the pandemic has only made this worse.

"Where you live affects how long you will have to wait. This is bringing stress and anxiety for those waiting."

Cancer Research UK says the new standard aims to produce swifter diagnoses for patients, but due to chronic shortages of specialists, the target is too low.

The charity is calling on the Government to raise the goal to 95 percent within its upcoming 10-year cancer plan to reduce the number of people "left in limbo" each month, as well as plan to ensure the NHS can deliver it.

The proportion of patients who received a diagnosis or had cancer ruled out within 28 days of an urgent suspected cancer referral nationally was at its lowest level in January, just 63.8 percent .

NGH’s worst performing month was also January, when 75.7 percent of 1,354 patients heard back.

The worst performing month at KGH was November, when 79.2 percent of 1,159 patients heard back.

Professor Charles Swanton, Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician, said a robust plan and sustained investment could help diagnose people quicker and earlier, and save more lives.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “We are improving outcomes for cancer patients across England and our new 10-Year Cancer Plan will set out how we will lead Europe in cancer care."

He added that the Government's record investment in the NHS aims to cut waiting times, including delivering an extra nine million checks, scans and operations by 2025 as part of plans to tackle the Covid backlog.

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