CREATING cancer treatment waiting time targets is incredibly difficult to get right.

In fact the whole issue of targets within the NHS is a thorny one.

And we tend to agree with Dr Tom Crosby, the South Wales Cancer Network 's clinical director, who today describes the current methods used as a blunt instrument which does not capture the true experience of most patients.

And that is understandable.

Cancer is a catch-all term for a disease which has myriad forms and as many possible outcomes. Some forms of it are incredibly complex, others more simple to both diagnose and treat.

So to have all facing the same targets is perhaps unrealistic and unhelpful.

Treatments and survival rates have improved so much in recent years that a diagnosis of some kinds of cancer is no longer the death threat that it once was. And that is of course a huge step forward.

But in drawing up targets we may sometimes be at risk of locking the NHS into a system which is not always helpful.

If targets are to be used they should focus on making sure referral to specialists, and hence the start of treatment, takes place as quickly as possible and that the quality of care is second to none.

We hope the new was of measuring waiting times being tested in Wales will sharpen the system and no longer represent a broad brush approach to such a complex issue.