Essex: Hospitals missing cancer and stroke targets

CANCER treatment targets have been missed in north Essex, new statistics reveal.

In the first quarter of this financial year – April to June – Colchester University Foundation Trust treated 81.9% of cancer patients within the 62-day referral-to-treatment time limit, falling short of its 85% target.

However, the trust, which also serves hospitals in Braintree, Witham, Halstead and Tendring, exceeded targets in June and July, when months are looked at in isolation.

A trust spokesman said statistics for cancer treatment times had improved since June, but accepted they needed to rise still further.

The results were published in a performance report presented in a meeting of the trust’s board of directors held on August 16, which also showed stroke patient goals lagging behind the national benchmark. The proportion of stroke sufferers being admitted to a specialist unit within four hours of arrival at hospital was 74% compared to the target of 90%.

Just over 95% of stroke patients were scanned within 24 hours of hospital arrival between April and June – 5% below the national target.

Overall, the majority of performance goals were met or exceeded over the same time period, including A&E waiting times and breast screening time frames.

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A trust spokesman said: “The trust has in recent months achieved sustained progress against the 62-day cancer standard and the stroke standard.

“We missed the cancer standard by just 3.1% for the first three months of 2012/13, which equates to only a small number of patients, although we accept we need to improve.

“In June, 91.4% of patients referred by their GP started their treatment within 62 days, against the national standard of 85%.

“We have continued to achieve the standard so far in the second quarter of the year – in July it was 92.9% and the pre-validation figure for last month is 85.5%.

“Many acute trusts have been failing the 62-day standard but we are confident that the improvement we’ve achieved in recent months is sustainable.”

Commenting on the stroke performance targets, he said: “In July, 81.25% of stroke patients were admitted directly to our stroke unit within four hours of arrival, against a target of 90%, and this increased to 82.61% in August.

“Just over a year ago, our performance against this indicator was about 40% but, clearly, we have made major progress. For example, we have introduced 24/7 acute stroke nurses, speeded up access to CT scans and improved our processes and systems.

“When demand peaks, it is not always possible to move a patient on to the stroke unit within four hours but in these circumstances they still receive first-class care in the A&E department or emergency assessment unit. Patients are transferred to the unit as soon as a bed becomes available.”