Cancer waiting times improve in Gwent

South Wales Argus: Cancer waiting times improve in Gwent Cancer waiting times improve in Gwent

TIMELY access to vital cancer treatments in Gwent has improved according to the latest figures, after a dip in performance in spring and summer meant a key target was missed for five months in a row.

Newly released Welsh Government figures for cancer waiting times for October show that the percentage of patients in Gwent who began their treatment inside the 62-day target - for those whose referral was for suspected cancer - hit a seven-month high of 97 per cent.

The target is for a minimum 95 per cent of such patients to begin treatment inside 62 days.

The problems earlier this year were largely attributable to capacity problems in urology.

The issue was at its worst during June, when 18 patients whose suspected diagnosis of a urology-related cancer had been subsequently confirmed, waited longer than 62 days to start their treatment.

That brought overall performance against the 62-day target that month in Gwent down to just 72 per cent. A plan to maximise capacity in that speciality has now taken hold.

The October performance of 97 per cent against the 62-day target was the best of Wales' six health boards that provide cancer treatments.

During that month all six health board areas hit another key cancer target, that for patients whose disease is diagnosed when their initial referral was not for a suspected cancer.

A minimum 98 per cent of these patients should begin their treatment inside 31 days.

Gwent has traditionally been the top performing area in Wales for starting cancer treatments within 31 days for such patients.

Small numbers mean that percentages can be affected by just a couple of target breaches, but the shorter target timescale reflects the urgency of beginning treatment for a previously unsuspected and undetected cancer that may have been established for some time.

In April, for the first time in two-and-a-half years, that minimum 98 per cent target was missed in Gwent, and has been twice since, although only narrowly.

But the October figure for Gwent was on target at 98 per cent, and health bosses hope to improve still further, getting back to achieving a 100 per cent rate against the 31-day target not recorded here since last January and February.

As well as urological cancers, head and neck, and breast cancers have proved the most difficult with which to maintain performance against targets, with demand and capacity issues the key problems.

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