More cancer patients getting to see a specialist at Bucks healthcare trust

Buckinghamshire hospitals are close to meeting NHS targets, but waiting times continue to be a struggle at Milton Keynes hospital trust

Wednesday, 19th May 2021, 10:50 am
More people with suspected cancer saw a specialist at Buckinghamshire Healthcare in March than for any month in the past year

More people with suspected cancer saw a specialist at Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust in March than for any month in the past year, latest figures show.

Macmillan Cancer Support welcomed the figures, but said they rounded off a "devastating year of disruption" which had led to thousands of people undiagnosed or facing delayed treatment.

NHS England data shows 1,996 people were seen by a specialist at Bucks Healthcare NHS Trust following an urgent GP referral in March – 39 per cent more than in February, when there were 1,436.

The month also saw the highest number of appointments recorded since the start of the pandemic in March last year.

Meanwhile, the hospital trust started treatment on 84 per cent of cancer patients within two months of an urgent GP referral in March this year – close to meeting the 85 per cent target introduced by the NHS a decade ago.

And 99 per cent of patients had their first appointment within two weeks of a referral, compared to the target of 95 per cent.

At Milton Keynes University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, the data shows 1,321 people were seen by a specialist following an urgent GP referral in March – 32 per cent more than in February, when there were 1,004.

And MK hospital also saw the highest number of appointments recorded that month since the start of the pandemic in March last year.

However, waiting times continue to be a struggle at the MK hospital trust.

Only ​86 per cent of patients had their appointment within two weeks of referral compared to the NHS target of 95 per cent, and just 67 per cent of cancer patients started treatment within two months of an urgent GP referral in March this year – way short of the 85 per cent NHS target.

That was down from 71 per cent in February, and 80 per cent in March last year.

Across England, 232,000 people were seen for urgent cancer investigations after being referred by their GP in March, more than in any of the previous 12 months.

Cancer Research UK's senior intelligence manager, Jon Shelton, said it was not enough getting back to normal levels, adding further investment was required to diagnosis thousands of people who had not come forward during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Macmillan's head of policy, Sara Bainbridge, said a long-term workforce plan was now needed to tackle the treatment backlog and improve cancer care.

“These results show signs of improvement, but today’s data rounds off a devastating year of disruption, which has seen tens of thousands of people missing a diagnosis or experiencing changed and delayed treatment, while their chances of survival potentially worsen.

“As Covid pressures lift, the government can no longer put off fixing the chronic undersupply of cancer staffing and resources."

Nationally, patients with suspected skin and breast cancers were among the most referred by GPs. At Buckinghamshire Healthcare there were 464 appointments for suspected skin cancer and 327 for suspected breast cancer in March.

The NHS said it was "welcome news" that more people were seen as a result of GP referrals in March.

Professor Stephen Powis, the national medical director for the NHS, said: “But we want to go further and faster on this recovery, which is why we’re investing £160 million on ways to tackle waiting lists and putting in place practical plans to speed up non-urgent operations."