Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Women Still Wait for Cancer Care

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Women Still Wait for Cancer Care

Article excerpt

A government-imposed target has failed to improve waiting times for breast cancer treatment, it was claimed last night.

The target - set in 1999 - decrees that all women with suspected breast cancer should see a consultant within two weeks. But almost two years later women were still facing long delays before being treated, say researchers at London's Thames Cancer Registry.

For some treatments delays in the South of England had worsened, according to findings reported in the British Journal of Cancer.

North hospitals have been collecting waiting-time data only 18 months but last year's figures show 99.7pc were seen in two weeks.

Some 99.3pc of patients at Newcastle hospitals and 90pc at Gateshead underwent surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy within a month of their hospital appointment. Newcastle Hospitals business development director Richard Barker said: "We are very pleased with our figures." Dr David Robinson, of Guy's, King's and St Thomas' School of Medicine, King's College London, said: "Our study suggests that the Government's two-week target has changed little for women undergoing breast cancer treatment.

"The problem with arbitrary targets is that rather than bringing about a genuine and lasting improvement in cancer services, they just seem to push patients from one queue to another."

The study analysed records of 5,750 women referred between July 1997 and December 2000 and later treated for breast cancer. A comparison was made between those referred before and after April 1999.

After the target was introduced, the proportion who saw a consultant in two weeks rose from 66pc to 75pc, while the midpoint waiting time fell from 11 to 10 days. But the proportion who received treatment within five weeks of their hospital appointment fell from 84pc to 80pc. The two-week target was met more often for women whose cancers were detected by screening than for those who went to GPs.

Cancer Research UK director of clinical research Prof Robert Souhami said: "The NHS Cancer Plan is a great idea, but it's got a long way to go before it becomes a successful reality. …

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