Healthcare news

Cancer targets: More staff needed as all trusts miss waiting time objectives

Margaret Carr of Cancer Research UK warned the latest figures are `a reflection of a service under significant pressure'. Picture by Brian Thompson

ONLY more staff can deliver life-saving cancer tests and treatments, a charity has warned, as all Northern Ireland's health trusts again missed their waiting time targets.

Despite a slight improvement in patients receiving their first treatment for cancer within 62 days of an urgent GP referral, a quarter were still waiting more than two months in March this year.

The target is 95 per cent of patients being seen in this time.

The South Eastern Trust remained the most poorly performing, with more than one in three patients not being seen within 62 days.

In the Belfast Trust, just 68 per cent were seen in that time.

The Northern Trust, managed to have 87 per cent of those waiting seen within 62 days and the figures for the Southern and Western Trusts were 86.2 per cent and 81.4 per cent respectively.

The average across the north was 75.4 per cent, up from 69 per cent in March 2017.

Heather Monteverde of Macmillan Services said the improvement was "encouraging", given the "ongoing political inertia in Northern Ireland".

"Doctors and nurses within all of our health trusts continue to work tirelessly to support patients and to progress change within cancer services," she said.

"It is positive news that more people are surviving following a cancer diagnosis, due to improvements in how cancer is detected and treated.

"However, this has caused a significant increase in cancer prevalence and the need for care and support

"Change is urgently needed to future-proof a system that is struggling to keep up with the ever-increasing demands being placed on it.

Margaret Carr of Cancer Research UK warned that the latest figures are "a reflection of a service under significant pressure".

"We know that local hospitals make every effort to meet targets, but diagnostic staff shortages put services under severe strain," she said.

"In what is the 70th year of the health service, more staff are needed to deliver the life-saving tests and treatments people need."

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