Cancer waiting times to be monitored every week

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WAITING times for cancer patients are to be monitored every week after it emerged NHS Lothian is missing targets.

The latest figures for October to December last year showed 94.3 per cent of patients in the Lothians who were urgently referred with suspicion of cancer started treatment within two months, just below the 95 per cent target.

Health Secretary Alex Neil said health boards failing to treat patients within 62 days of urgent referral are to be given “additional advice”.

Lothian is one of five boards – including NHS Grampian, NHS Highland, NHS Tayside, and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde – not to make the target.

Across Scotland as a whole the target was missed, with 94.6 per cent of people starting cancer treatment within two months of being referred.

It has led to Mr Neil saying the poorer performing boards will receive extra monitoring to bring up standards.

He said” “While NHS Scotland provides some of the best cancer care in the world, we scrutinise waiting times performance because patients should not suffer unnecessary distress because of lengthy waits for a diagnosis or to start their treatment.

“We are monitoring on a weekly basis those health boards who are not regularly meeting the 62-day cancer standard and a support team is visiting boards to offer additional advice. I believe that this group will bring about real improvements and help health boards to ensure that these key targets will be met in the future.”

The target for cancer patients starting treatment within 31 days of a decision to treat being made was met for 99.2 per cent of patients in the Lothians.

But Labour health spokesman Neil Findlay said more needed to be done so patients got the care they were entitled to. “The bottom line is that people are still waiting too long from referral to receiving their first treatment,” he said.

“The rationale for targets should not be to provide a baseline on how health boards are performing but to provide patients, who are going through a horrendous experience, to get the action they need to aid in their recovery.”

He said areas worst affected had the fastest rising population and more permanent solutions were needed rather than “sending in support squads”.

Professor Alex McMahon, director of strategic planning, NHS Lothian said: “ We regret that a very small number of people were not seen as quickly as we would have liked. No-one wants to wait for treatment and we are continuing to develop ways of delivering care even faster.”