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Warwickshire cancer patients face two-month wait to start treatment

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Two-fifths of patients in Warwickshire and Coventry with an urgent GP referral for cancer are having to wait more than two months to start treatment, according to latest NHS figures.

Bright lights at the end the hospital corridor. The concept of life and death.. (53914834)
Bright lights at the end the hospital corridor. The concept of life and death.. (53914834)

This region is the seventh-worst performing in the country, when it comes to cancer patients.

And the 42 per cent of patients in this area trapped on the cancer waiting list for longer than 62 days is much higher than the national average of 26 per cent, or Surrey Heartlands at 20 per cent.

The figures, published by independent watchdog the National Audit Office, also reveal more than 92,000 people in Warwickshire and Coventry are trapped on a waiting list for elective (non-emergency) care.

More than a third (35 per cent) of patients in this area – 32,000 people – have been waiting more than four months for procedures like hip or knee replacements and cataract or tonsil removal.

And 5,500 patients have been languishing on the list for more than a year.

The NAO’s report ‘NHS backlogs and waiting times in England’ paints a stark picture of the massive backlog for treatment across the country, describing the scale of the challenge facing the NHS as ‘daunting’.

Nationally, there are a record-breaking 5.8 million people on the waiting list for elective care and the NAO forecasts this could more than double to reach 12 million by 2025.

Warning that millions of people avoided seeking treatment, or couldn’t get referrals for healthcare during the pandemic, the report estimates there could be up to 740,000 ‘missing’ urgent GP referrals for suspected cancer in England.

And it’s also thought there may be as many as nine million ‘missing’ referrals for elective care, for the same reasons.

To help tackle the enormous backlog, the NAO is calling for extra beds and operating theatre capacity.

It also warns the ‘ongoing pressure’ on medics and other NHS workers needs to be dealt with urgently, particularly staff shortages.

Stratford District Councillor Sarah Whalley-Hoggins described the long waits for treatment, including urgent referrals from a GP for cancer, as “truly shocking”.

She said: “Being ranked as the seventh-poorest in the country indicates there’s much to be done to improve outcomes for patients. The residents of Coventry and Warwickshire deserve the very best healthcare possible – urgent solutions must be found to improve this ranking.”

The Conservative representative for Brailes and Compton, who recently alerted the Herald to lack of breast screening appointments in Stratford, added: “Because of these wait times, too many people could find their outcomes are very different to what they might had been if they’d been able to access rapid care.

“I’m concerned we’re going to get a two-tier health system where those who can access private consultations will be OK, as they’ll be fast-tracked and get rapid treatment. That’s not what the NHS was set up to do.

“We have to be there for everybody and potential cancer patients most take priority.”

A spokesman for NHS Coventry and Warwickshire Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Throughout the pandemic cancer has been a priority for the NHS, but necessary infection control measures to prevent the spread of Covid and protect patients and staff meant the number of treatments we could deliver on a daily basis had to be reduced, which meant some patients have waited longer.

“From August 2020 cancer activity levels returned back to normal and have further increased through 2021 to be above pre-covid levels activity.

“Activity levels for two-week waits, patients starting treatment before 31 days, patients treated within 62 days, and for diagnostic testing are now at the highest they have been.

“The NHS remains open and ready to care for you, so it’s vitally important that people experiencing cancer symptoms come forward and get checked.”

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