Trust hits cancer targets and gets back on track for first time in years
26th September 2019
THE NHS Trust that runs Tunbridge Wells Hospital has said it has hit the national target for cancer waiting times for the first time in nearly five years.
As reported in the Times earlier this year, Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust [MTW], which was in financial special measures until the end of 2018, has been languishing at the bottom of a nationwide list of all trusts when it came to cancer waiting times.
The Government targets require NHS trusts to start treatment for 85 per cent of cancer patients within 62 days of a GP referral.
MTW was even ranked 131 out of 131 of all NHS trusts in the country earlier this year.
Now, the Trust has said it has turned the figures around, hitting the national target and pulling itself up into the top 30 per cent of nationwide trusts.
This has been achieved despite MTW having seen suspected cancer referrals increase by nearly a third over the last two years.
Miles Scott, MTW Chief Executive, said the number of patients waiting for cancer treatment has been significantly reduced.
He explained: “It’s been our priority to get our cancer treatment waiting times back on track, so I’m delighted that we’ve achieved what we set out to do - and earlier than we anticipated too.
“This means we are now seeing and treating more of our patients quicker, ensuring people who have been diagnosed with cancer get access to the treatment they need.
“We know from what our patients tell us that timeliness of treatment is really important to them and this is important to us too.
“Delivering the standard means we’re meeting what our patients want.
“Our staff have worked really hard to turn our performance around in a sustainable way and I want to thank each of them for their incredible efforts in helping us make these improvements.
“Our achievements are particularly noteworthy as we’ve seen a significant increase in suspected cancer referrals in the past two years.”
In March this year. the Trust reported a rise in 25-40 year olds being diagnosed with cancer, which health bosses say was caused by both better diagnosis as well as certain ‘lifestyle factors’ such as smoking and drinking. Despite the rise, the Trust say they now have a handle on referral rates.
“Our ambition now is to continue with this hard work, build on the great actions we’ve put in place that are delivering results and become an outstanding cancer centre, where patients can access world-leading, high quality cancer care and treatment,” added Mr Scott.
In September 2018 MTW was treating just 58 per cent of patients within 62 days.
Since then, the Trust say they have introduced a raft of changes to improve its cancer waiting times and respond to the rise in demand.
This includes investing in more staff, diagnostic equipment and facilities, introducing new treatment pathways, and implementing ‘innovative best practice to streamline systems and processes’.
One of the key quality improvements the Trust has made to speed up patients’ access to treatment is the introduction of the ‘straight to test’, where a referred patient is initially assessed by a specialist cancer nurse over the telephone, rather than waiting to have an face-to-face outpatient appointment. The Trust says this results in an earlier diagnosis.
MTW has also increased radiology capacity by providing the procedure over seven days, rather than just five or six.
Chief of Service for Cancer, Dr Henry Taylor, added: “This achievement is a result of a huge effort from all clinical staff working alongside a dedicated administrative team to provide the best possible care for our patients throughout their cancer journey.
“Our progress has been outstanding, but we remain committed to further improvement to ensure we deliver the best for our patients.”
“We should never forget that whilst time to treatment is an important measure of how well our services are performing, MTW has always maintained its excellent track record in patient experience and outcomes from treatment.
“We provide some of the most advanced cancer care in the country, from offering patients the opportunity to get involved with ground-breaking clinical trials to highly technical radiotherapy techniques.
“We have worked hard to improve our service further by establishing innovative and modern pathways to ensure our patients get access to the first-class treatment they need.”