Rate of Doncaster cancer patients waiting too long for treatment at record level

The proportion of cancer patients starting treatment within two months at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals Trust fell to a record low in February, figures reveal.

Monday, 10th May 2021, 7:42 am

As NHS performance against the two-month target also reached its lowest level nationally, Macmillan Cancer Support said the latest statistics reveal the enduring impact of the coronavirus pandemic on cancer services.

NHS data shows that at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, just 68.7 per cent of cancer patients started treatment within 62 days of an urgent GP referral in February.

That was down from 76.3 per cent in January, and the lowest rate since records began in 2009.

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It means 26 patients had waited longer than two months in February, and the trust fell far below the 85 per cent target introduced over a decade ago.

Across England, just 69.7 per cent of patients received cancer treatment within two months of an urgent referral in February – the worst performance on record.

It means the NHS target has now not been met for nearly three years.

And while there were slightly more referrals for urgent cancer investigations in February compared to the previous month, Macmillan said the number of people starting treatment "remains lower than it would expect".

Sara Bainbridge, the charity's head of policy, said: “This data further illustrates the catastrophic impact of Covid-19 on cancer diagnosis and treatment.

"It’s vital that cancer services continue to be prioritised and that those with cancer are not forgotten.

"To address the extensive challenges that lie ahead, the NHS urgently needs a long-term, fully funded plan for its workforce, ensuring there are more dedicated staff who are able to provide the best care for cancer patients, now and in the future."

Health workers have faced enormous pressures throughout the pandemic, which has pushed up hospital waiting times.

A group of MPs, charities and Royal Colleges are calling on the Government to provide urgent funding for cancer services to tackle the Covid-19 induced backlog and "save thousands of lives."

A declaration, signed by doctors and organisations including Cancer Research UK and the Institute of Cancer Policy, says: "We further urge the Government to recognise that to catch up with the cancer backlog, NHS services need the tools to “super-boost” capacity above pre-pandemic levels."

"This means revisiting aspects of the Budget and Spending Review to ring-fence urgent cancer investment."

Rebecca Joyce, Chief Operating Officer at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals, said: “Throughout the past 12 months, we have prioritised patients with cancer and other urgent needs, carrying out this work in as timely a manner as possible. Whilst the pandemic has impacted on some services, we have also seen very high levels of cancer referrals in recent months, which has contributed to the lower level of performance.

“As the levels of infection continues to drop, we have developed plans to further increase our activity, ensuring that patients are waiting no longer than necessary and improving our overall position. As we move forward into the summer and beyond, this will be one of our top priorities as we recover from the pandemic and ensure all patients get timely, high quality care.”

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Liam Hoden, editor.