Saturday, February 24, 2024

King Charles’ health shines spotlight on part of Essex with worst cancer performance

CANCER treatment waiting times in mid and south Essex are the worst performing in England with almost one in five having to wait more than a month for treatment to start reports the Local Democracy Reporter.

In the NHS Mid And South Essex Integrated Care Board area, only 81.5 per cent of patients waited less than a month for their cancer treatment to start in November. That’s the lowest ratio of any region in the country.

The NHS has a target that 96 per cent of cancer patients will wait 31-days or less from a decision to treat, to receiving their first treatment.

A national average of 90.1 per cent of patients who started their treatment in November just did so within 31 days.

Mid and South Integrated Care System, which covers hospitals in Basildon, Chelmsford and Southend have received additional investment from the Cancer Alliance – an NHS England partnership of clinicians and managers who coordinate and improve cancer care – which it says will be used provide additional clinic capacity.

It also has started a transformation programme which is focussing on how it can make the best use of clinics and how it can work more closely with GPs and community health partners to improve early detection and diagnosis.

It is aiming for 75 per cent of diagnoses to be completed within the 28-day Faster Diagnosis Standard by April 2024.

Andrew Pike, Chief Operating Officer at Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Waiting for any cancer treatment is difficult and we are sorry that some people are waiting longer than we would like. Our cancer teams work to ensure people are seen in order of clinical priority, providing extra clinics and surgical resource across our three hospitals, making sure people are seen and treated as quickly as possible.

“Continued industrial action and the holiday period has meant that our performance has been particularly challenged, but we have clear recovery plans in place, with a focus on areas that are experiencing the greatest demand for their services.”

Cancer services have been given added noteworthiness since the news His Majesty Charles is recovering at Buckingham Palace after receiving immediate treatment for cancer.

It was revealed on Monday that Charles has been diagnosed with cancer after it was discovered during his recent treatment for an enlarged prostate..

The King has started his treatment, Buckingham Palace says, with the cancer reportedly having been caught early.

Charles’ cancer announcement came just a day after World Cancer Day on 4 February). Thanks to life-saving lung health check programme, more than 100 local people have now had previously undiscovered lung cancer found and treated in mid and south Essex.

Southend has one of the highest rates of death from lung cancer in the UK and some of the highest rates of smoking with 42 per cent of the local population labelled as smokers. The programme is one of the second wave of sites to be rolled out as part the NHS Long Term Plan.

While mid and south Essex has the worst 31-day treatment figures in the country, even other areas of Essex are still below the NHS target of 96 per cent of people starting treatment within 31-days following a decision to treat.

NHS Suffolk and North East Essex ICS, which looks after Colchester Hospital has seen 90.6 per cent of patients waiting 31-days or less to start treatment. This is above the national average but below the target of 96 per cent.

Karen Lough is Director of Elective Care at East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust with responsibility for cancer and diagnostics.

She said: “Our teams continue to prioritise cancer care. They are working hard to make sure we keep waiting times to a minimum. This includes running extra clinics and theatre lists.

“Achieving the new national cancer waiting times standards, including the 31 day decision to treat to treatment standard, is very important to us. We review all patients on our waiting lists on a regular basis and track our performance closely.

“We’re committed to treating everyone who is waiting for treatment quickly and safely.

“Please remember if you have any symptoms or signs of cancer, or something feels or looks different for you, it’s important you contact your GP. If you need to come to hospital for tests, our teams are here to help and support you.”

NHS Herts and West Essex ICS has seen 94.8 per cent of patients waiting 31-days or less to start treatment This is above the national average but below the NHS target of 96 per cent.

A spokesman said: “Hertfordshire and West Essex ICB continues to work hard to ensure patients are not waiting longer than necessary to be given a positive or negative cancer diagnosis, and to start treatment where required.

“In November 2023 94.8 per cent of patients across Hertfordshire and west Essex who were waiting for a decision about cancer treatment were seen within the 31-day national standard. This performance is above the regional and national average. Indicative data for December shows further improvement and this will be verified in the coming weeks.

“We will continue to build on this by working closely with colleagues at our hospital trusts for the benefit of our patients.”

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