Concern over cancer referral waits

PUBLISHED: 14:00 10 December 2010

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DOZENS of suspected cancer patients are risking their chances of survival by failing to get checked up in hospital within two weeks of diagnosis.

A total of 33 people waited more than 14 days for their first appointment at Weston General Hospital following ‘urgent’ cancer referrals in September.

The hospital, which released the figures this week, says most of the prolonged waits are down to the patient’s choice, and not waiting times.

The figure, however, represents an underachievment for the hospital and bosses have vowed to launch an investigation.

A spokesman said: “The GP explains to the patient that they are being referred to the hospital as a ‘fast-track’ patient, which indicates the patient needs to be seen within two weeks of the hospital receiving the referral.

“The patient is offered a variety of appointment slots within a two-week period. It may be that this is not convenient for all patients to attend during this time and therefore they choose to not to be seen within that two-week period.

“The number of breaches of this standard for the month of September was unusually high and we will be working with our cancer services team to look into this further.”

The figure of 33 represents 10 per cent of patients not being seen within two weeks after referral. The hospital has a target of seven per cent.

The proportion of patients not being seen by a specialist for 14 days after symptoms of breast cancer also rose during September to 20 per cent.

But, like the previous figure, the hospital put the rise down to patient choice.

In response to the statistics, Sara Hiom, director of health information at Cancer Research UK, said: “Too often diagnose cancer late in this country, so we encourage people to attend their referral appointments promptly if there is any suspicion of cancer.

“The disease is easier to treat successfully if it is detected early and an appointment with an expert is a crucial first step in getting a speedy cancer diagnosis.”

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