Cancer patients still left waiting

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despairCANCER patients are still having to wait almost a year to see a specialist because health boards have failed to cut waiting times, according to official figures to be released this week, writes Kathleen Nutt.

Around a fifth of cancer sufferers are not being seen within two months of an urgent referral, the target set by ministers. Currently only 79% of cancer patients are seen by a consultant within eight weeks of being referred to hospital by their GP, well below the Scottish executive’s 95% target.

Earlier this year health boards were criticised after figures revealed wide variations in the waits faced in different parts of the country.

One patient with lymphoma had to wait 349 days for treatment from NHS Greater Glasgow, while in Tayside another bowel cancer sufferer was forced to wait 321 days.

In Fife a patient with lung cancer had to wait 289 days for treatment, while in Lothian one man had to wait 303 days for treatment for urological cancer.

Last week Andy Kerr, the health minister, was forced to admit that the situation had not improved and that specialist “hit squads” would be sent to the poorest-performing health boards — NHS Highland, NHS Greater Glasgow and NHS Forth Valley — to force down waiting times. The special teams, comprising doctors, nurses and health board managers, will identify any problems causing the backlog. Other health boards will be targeted later.

“The figures out this week show no significant change in those for the last quarter,” said a source close to the minister. “We expect improvements at a number of health boards following the support of the delivery teams.”

Shona Robison, the Scottish National Party shadow health minister, said: “There are huge variations in performance between health boards in meeting the urgent two-month referral target.”

source - Times Online 

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