Cancer targets remain ‘challenging’ at Lincolnshire hospitals

Cancer diagnosis targets “remain challenging” for Lincolnshire’s hospitals, as data shows they are regularly missing targets.

New operating theatres are being built at Grantham Hospital.
New operating theatres are being built at Grantham Hospital.

Analysis by the Press Association has found that nationally seven in 10 NHS trusts are failing to hit targets for seeing patients within two weeks when suspected of having cancer.

From August 2019 to August 2022 shows United Lincolnshire Hospital Trust achieved the target cancer referrals for just one month out of 37.

Reports before the trust’s board on Tuesday showed monthly targets of 93 per cent being missed for July and August at 56.08 per cent and 42.30 per cent respectively (57.46 per cent year to date).

ULHT says they are currently achieving monthly performances of between 45-58 per cent as they look to treat a backlog of patients.

A spokesperson for ULHT said: “Performance against cancer targets remains challenging for our trust, much the same as in other areas of the country, due to national problems such as the COVID-19 pandemic and also staffing shortages.

“The numbers of people diagnosed and treated with cancer continues to grow year-on-year, and as a trust we have not stopped diagnosing and treating our patients.

“At ULHT, we receive an average of 27,500 two-week wait referrals each year, who we are seeing, diagnosing and treating. However, at times it is taking us longer than we would like.”

They said the 10 current standard national cancer targets – which aim to act as metrics along the cancer pathways – are “always quite difficult to achieve” because they include all levels of cancer and are not separated by clinical urgency or cancer types.

“We are currently achieved a monthly performance of between 45-58 per cent, and much of this is to do with ensuring we are treating our backlog of patients at a time that is medically right for them,” said the spokesman.

They pointed to a number of improvements in the last two years, including new patient pathways, opening the first Community Diagnostic Centre in Grantham, participating in pilots such as the Galleri trial and the use of surgical robots.

New theatres are due to open in Grantham which will also help increase surgical capacity.

The trust is encouraging anyone who has cancer symptoms to see their GP for help and advice in the first instance.

There is also help for those with mental or social care needs who might be going through the diagnostic stages of cancer including a nurse led pre-diagnosis support service.

According to PA’s data, 84 out of 117 trusts on average were not hitting the two-week target over a 12 month rolling average.

Three hospital trusts have not reached the target for the entirety of the past three years.

Naser Turabi, director of evidence and implementation at Cancer Research UK, told PA: “Any cancer waiting times target that is missed is unacceptable.

“However, this target should be a minimum standard. The fact that it is now not being met just goes to show how strained our health service has become,” he said.