Express & Star

Stafford hospital trust on track to cut cancer treatment backlog

Hospital bosses say they are on course to cut the backlog for cancer treatment to pre-pandemic levels.

Stafford's County Hospital is among those served by University of North Midlands NHS Trust

The number of patients at University Hospitals of North Midlands (UHNM) waiting more than 62 days for cancer care following a GP referral was 382 at the end of December, down from more than 500 in the autumn.

Chief operating officer Simon Evans told a UHNM board meeting that this put the trust – which serves County Hospital in Stafford – ahead of schedule for hitting its nationally set target of 273 – reflecting pre-Covid levels – by April.

But Mr Evans warned that issues over diagnostics, specifically endoscopy, were hampering efforts to cut the waiting list down further.

The news comes as the issue of cancer treatment delays has received increased national attention due to King Charles’ recent diagnosis.

Mr Evans said: “Cancer treatment backlogs is a much more positive story in terms of 62-days. That has been better than trajectory and despite the holiday period when we’ve seen a reduction in capacity, industrial action, and patients choosing not to have treatment, I’m pleased to say we’re still on track.

“However, diagnostics in cancer is still a concern for us, and that will continue to have an impact on our ability to reduce our backlog of cancer treatments. Endoscopy is the primary issue within that.

“There’s a three-part response to that: additional capacity, an improvement piece within the organisation, and working with regional system colleagues to better balance the load.”

The number of UHNM patients waiting over 104 days for cancer treatment has halved to 112, as of the end of December.

While the cancer backlog was the focus of Mr Evans’ report to the board, figures show that the current performance remains ‘significantly challenged’ with December’s figures showing that just 50.6 per cent of patients began their treatment within 62 days following an urgent GP referral, against a target of 85 per cent.