Mixed results for Fife cancer waiting times

NHS Fife failed to meet all the targets for cancer patient treatment
NHS Fife failed to meet all the targets for cancer patient treatment

NHS Fife saw a mixed bag of results for waiting times for patients diagnosed with cancer.

While it met the waiting time targets for some of the categories, health bosses admitted more work needed to be done.

NHS Scotland’s Information Services Division published the findings for patients seen between April and June across Scotland.

It broke waiting times into two categories: 62 days from referral to start of treatment, and 31 days to start of treatment after the decision has made to treat a patient.

A tolerance level of 95 per cent of patients being treated within those times was set – NHS Fife made one but missed the other.

The region met the 31-day time frame but missed the longer one.

It saw 95.2 per cent of patients within 31 days.

But that figure fell to 89.8 per cent for the 62-day timescale.

The figures were in line with the rest of the country, and only NHS Borders and NHS Lanarkshire managed to meet the 62-day target.

Cancer types that the ISD recorded were: breast, cervical, colorectal, head and neck, lung, lymphoma, melanoma, ovarian, upper GI, and urological.

On failing to meet the 62 day target, the local board said that the delays to first outpatient appointment, and to surgery were behind the failures.

A faulty PET scanner in Tayside resulted in lung cancer patients waiting longer than expected.

And delays for cervical screening were due to routine staging and investigations, some of which were carried out in tertiary boards.

Urology patients’ targets were missed because of delays in follow-up appointments.

Scott McLean, NHS Fife chief operating officer for acute services, accepted that improvements need to be made in the area.

“We continue to meet the 31 day standard for cancer diagnosis, with statistics showing that we achieved 95.2 per cent against the national standard of 95 per cent,” he said.

“Although there have been challenges in consistently meeting the 62 day standard, the majority of patients do begin treatment within this period.

“We continue to work with colleagues at a local and regional level to address any issues.”

Shona Robison, Health Secretary, underlined that prompt treatment was key to treating people who have been diagnosed with cancer.

And she wants more from the boards at regional level.

“Nine out of 10 patients begin cancer treatment within 62 days of a referral.

“But I want health boards to work even harder to improve early access to diagnostics so that patients can get a decision on whether they need treatment or not as quickly as possible.

“This is where we are focusing our efforts – with an additional £2 million to support immediate improvements in diagnostic and treatment capacity. Health boards who have particular challenges with waiting times are subject to enhanced monitoring by us, to provide support and assistance in bringing down waits.”

“We are also concentrating on improving services across Scotland for patients with urological cancer – including work at a national level to build capacity across NHS Scotland and investing in new technology such as robotic assisted surgery. And we are continuing to implement our new £100 million Cancer Strategy which will drive improvements in access to cancer care and invest in the prevention, detection, diagnosis, treatment and aftercare for cancer patients – as well improving treatment waiting times.”