MORE than 40 cancer patients in Gwent did not start their treatment inside a key target time during April-June - part of a Wales-wide deterioration performance by health boards.

A minimum 95 per cent of patients whose disease is detected through what is known as the urgent suspected cancer route - their referral is made due to cancer being suspected - should begin treatment within 62 days of that referral.

During January-March, treatment was started on more than 95 per cent of patients in this category in Gwent, the only part of Wales in which the target was met.

But during the following three months, Aneurin Bevan Health Board began only 82.3 per cent of patients' treatment inside 62 days (191 out of 232), yet this was still better than three of Wales' five other health board areas.

Problems in Gwent are focused on three cancer treatment pathways, head and neck, urology, and breast, with the former two experiencing the most acute problems.

The health board is working on improving access to diagnostics in urology to try to speed up the process there, while for head and neck cancer patients the issue is one of not enough capacity, though an action plan is being drawn up to tackle this.

While not always hitting the 95 per cent target for starting treatment inside 62 days, Gwents' health board was the best performing in Wales for 11 months during 2012/13.

Another target is that patients whose disease is diagnosed outside of the urgent suspected cancer route should begin their treatment inside 31 days. This is a shorter timescale as their disease was not initially suspected and may be more established.

The target is for a minimum 98 per cent of patients to begin treatment within 31 days of referral.

During April-June, 98.6 per cent, or all but eight of 560 patients in Gwent, started their treatment inside 31 days. This was the best performance of Wales's six health boards.