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Wednesday, 11 April, 2001, 07:49 GMT 08:49 UK
Cancer waiting times cut
Breast screening
Hospitals are cutting their cancer waiting times
Waiting times for cancer treatment in some hospitals have been dramatically cut by government pilot schemes.

Fifty-one schemes around the country have halved the waiting time for first treatments and reduced waits for radiology by nearly two-thirds.

Now the government is rolling the programme out nationwide in a bid to cut waiting times for all cancer patients.

Under the NHS Plan, the government said, by 2005, no cancer patients should have to wait more than two months from GP referral to their first treatment.

This is good news as we know that treating patients sooner decreases anxiety, improves the patient's experience and produces a better outcome

Professor Mike Richards, cancer "tsar"

Success stories included:

  • At Glenfield Hospital, in Leicester, staff were able to remove a three-week delay in breast cancer waiting times by re-designing their patient registration forms.
  • At University Hospital, Lewisham, staff have stopped giving bowel cancer patients two separate appointment days for tests - they said this cut patient anxiety and reduced the number of missed appointments by 15%.
  • Northwick Park Hospital and Clinical Research Centre, Harrow, cut its backlog of routine CT scans from 18 weeks to zero for lung cancer patients, by ensuring the scanner was used to full capacity.
  • The Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust reduced a 12-week wait for an ultrasound for prostate cancer to just two weeks.
  • Queen's Hospital, Sidcup, has reduced waiting times for ovarian cancer test results by 72 hours by transporting specimens straight to the laboratory following theatre rather than waiting for collection the next day.
The Cancer Services Collaborative programme was launched in November 1999 to try and find ways to cut waiting list times for cancer treatments.

Cancer "tsar" Professor Mike Richards said the pilot schemes had proved a great success.

He said: "Waiting times for diagnostic tests which used to take months now take weeks or even just days by making practical changes.

"We want to see this extended to the rest of the country so that all cancer patients can benefit from such good practice."

Professor Mike Richards
Cancer "tsar" Professor Mike Richards wants to see waiting times cut

Professor Richards said speedier treatment for cancer patients would improve their chances of recovery.

"This is good news as we know that treating patients sooner decreases anxiety, improves the patient's experience and produces a better outcome."

Professor David Kerr, national clinical chair of the Cancer Services Collaborative, said the scheme had shown how dramatic changes could be made with very little financial outlay.

"The main resource has been time and support.

"The Cancer Services Collaborative has provided a forum for clinical teams from across the country to come together and to share how they deliver services.

"Teams have tested ideas out with each other, learned from each other's failure and plagiarised the changes that have worked."

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See also:

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