Trust says sorry as cancer patients at King’s Mill hospital left waiting too long for treatment

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Sherwood Forest Hospitals Trust – which runs Mansfield and Sutton’s King’s Mill hospitals – has apologised after regularly breaching a key cancer waiting time target.

Analysis of national data by Cancer Research UK revealed the target – aimed at making sure the majority of patients sent for urgent cancer investigations are seen within two months – has been missed across England for more than half a decade.

The charity is calling for major investment in services it says were struggling even before the coronavirus pandemic.

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The NHS states 85 per cent of cancer patients urgently referred by a GP should start treatment within 62 days.

Simon Barton, Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Trust chief operating officer.Simon Barton, Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Trust chief operating officer.
Simon Barton, Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Trust chief operating officer.

NHS England data shows SFH NHS Trust only met the target in one month between April 2019 – when comparable trust-level figures began – and July this year.

In July, just 69 per cent of patients received cancer treatment within two months of an urgent referral, down from 72 per cent in June, but a rise from 67 per cent in July last year.

The trust has now said sorry – but pledged to ‘increase the speed’ at which patients are seen.

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Simon Barton, trust chief operating officer, said: “Before and during the coronavirus pandemic, which impacted on services across the NHS, we have remained committed to ensuring suspected cancer patients are given the all clear, or are treated as quickly as possible.

King's Mill Hospital in Sutton.King's Mill Hospital in Sutton.
King's Mill Hospital in Sutton.

“We recognise, however, that on occasion this has taken longer than we would like and for that we are sorry.

“We are working hard to increase the speed at which we see and treat patients with suspected cancer, but, like all parts of the NHS, we are seeing a higher number of patients being referred for cancer investigations.

“In July, 76 per cent of suspected cancer patients were given their test results within 28 days, which is higher than the national standard.

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“We are continuing to prioritise our capacity to meet the needs of all of our cancer and urgent patients and this can differ depending on the type of suspected cancer and the diagnostic options available.

“We have additional endoscopy capacity now on site, which will support the earlier diagnosis or ruling out of bowel and other cancers.

“We know any additional wait can be distressing for patients and their families and we urge them to attend appointments or contact the team if they’re unsure about any part of their care.”

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‘Top priority’

Across England, just 72 per cent of patients received cancer treatment within two months of an urgent referral in July.

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The NHS target was last met nationally in December 2015, while annual performance has worsened year-on-year since 2017.

Cancer Research UK said pressures caused by the pandemic, including a growing list of patients, were a factor, but also laid blame on workforce shortages and insufficient infrastructure.

It said a radical reform of screening and diagnostic services was needed, backed by long-term investment from the Government.

The Department of Health and Social Care said it was providing record investment for the NHS, including an additional £9 billion for elective and cancer care.

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A spokesman said cancer diagnosis and treatment had remained ‘a top priority’ throughout the pandemic.

He said: “Almost half a million people were checked for cancer in June and July, which is among the highest numbers ever.”

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