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Cancer patients facing 'anxious' three-month wait for treatment

PUBLISHED: 05:30 23 January 2020 | UPDATED: 10:28 23 January 2020

Cancer patients are facing waits of more than three months for treatment (stock image) Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

Cancer patients are facing waits of more than three months for treatment (stock image) Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

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About one in four patients are waiting more than two months to start cancer treatment at Suffolk's biggest NHS trust, it has emerged.

The East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust has come under fire for not meeting national cancer waiting time standards Picture: RACHEL EDGEThe East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust has come under fire for not meeting national cancer waiting time standards Picture: RACHEL EDGE

Nearly a quarter of those urgently referred to Ipswich and Colchester hospitals by their GP are waiting longer than 62 days to begin their first treatment for the illness.

More than 150 people are currently waiting longer than 104 days (just over three months), according to NHS performance documents. Cancer waits at the East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation Trust (ESNEFT), which runs both hospitals, have come under increased scrutiny over the last few months.

What is the current situation?

Neill Moloney, the trust's deputy chief executive, said they are sorry it is not yet meeting national standards.

Neill Moloney, managing director and deputy chief executive at Ipswich Hospital. Picture: ANDY ABBOTTNeill Moloney, managing director and deputy chief executive at Ipswich Hospital. Picture: ANDY ABBOTT

By March 2020, it aims to ensure 85% of people wait no longer than 62 days between the date the hospital receives an urgent referral for suspected cancer and the start of treatment.

The most recent figure, for November, stood at 78%, up from 73% in October. NHS bosses warned a delay in the trust improving its performance could have a "severe impact on quality and care".

Trust 'sorry' over missed targets

Mr Moloney said: "We are totally committed to improving cancer performance for our patients, but we're sorry we are not yet meeting all of the national access standards for cancer care. We know there is work to be done on making improvements.

Karen Hare, chief executive of the Cancer Campaign in Suffolk Picture: ARCHANTKaren Hare, chief executive of the Cancer Campaign in Suffolk Picture: ARCHANT

"This huge programme of work takes into account the whole patient journey - from the point of referral from a GP, to treatment in hospital."

Before Christmas, a cancer summit involving Suffolk organisations set out priorities including speeding up the testing process and addressing recruitment and workforce challenges.

Major recent investment by the East of England Cancer Alliance will also support faster diagnosis and improved personalised care. Mr Moloney added: "The trust has robust plans in place to make sure we meet the national access standards and we report on our progress at a regional and national level every week."

A spokesman for the Ipswich and East Suffolk clinical commissioning group (CCG) said another summit is due to take place in march.

"Our focus is on continually improving cancer care in east Suffolk," he added.

"The hospital, GP practices, CCG and partners work together to ensure people start their treatment as soon as possible.

"We will continue to work together to ensure the best of care for cancer patients."

'People shouldn't be left floundering'

Karen Hare, of the Cancer Campaign in Suffolk, said long waits for treatment can make people feel anxious, and in "a constant state of limbo".

"These sorts of waits can make people feel very anxious, and in a constant state of limbo," said Ms Hare.

"If they have been referred as an 'urgent' case this can make people fear they will have to put their lives on hold.

"Communication during these waits is vital - either from the GP or the hospital - to ensure there is a dialogue, and that people aren't being left floundering.

She added: "What I wouldn't want is for people to put off going to their doctor because they worry they won't be seen quickly enough - it is so important to go along and see your GP, it could save your life."

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