New cancer waiting times piloted in Wales
A pilot project to test new ways of measuring cancer waiting times in Wales are underway, the Welsh Government has announced.
A single cancer pathway will be piloted, measured and compared against the existing system. Currently, patients are placed on one of two pathways – a 62-day ‘urgent’ pathway or 31-day ‘non-urgent’ pathway, according to when their cancer was first diagnosed.
The new measures, which have been developed by cancer clinicians, will be tested in six health board areas in Wales and will help the NHS to gain a more accurate picture of actual waiting times and speed up treatment in many cases.
Dr Tom Crosby, clinical director of the South Wales Cancer Network, said: “The clinical view is that monitoring waiting times is important to ensure patients are treated in a timely manner, but they are blunt instruments and do not measure the clinical experience of the vast majority of patients.
“The current cancer targets assume all diagnostic and treatment pathways should be the same duration, when that isn’t always the case. Sixty-two days should be the maximum time any patient should wait, but the vast majority of patients should be treated far more quickly than this.
“For example, a patient referred with a suspicious breast lump, where diagnosis is simpler and there are fewer tests involved, should have surgery far more quickly than a patient with a less aggressive but more complex cancer where more detailed diagnostic tests are needed and will lead to more effective surgery.
“In addition, the focus on the current 31-day and 62-day targets has encouraged a focus on the few patients who breech the target rather than improving the whole patient pathway for all patients. This new approach will also benefit patients beyond their first definitive treatment.”
Health Minister Mark Drakeford said: “We know from the current targets that the majority of people are already treated well within 31 or 62 days according to which pathway they are on and that there are only a very small number of people who are not seen within these times.
“But developing a single pathway will help us to be even more ambitious in terms of faster diagnosis and treatment as it will enable us to measure the actual time people wait and make sure patients are prioritised accordingly.
“It also means the NHS will no longer be focusing so much on the non-urgent suspected cancer pathway. This term makes the whole process sound less of a priority – if you’re a patient with cancer then you want to know you’re going to get the best care as soon as possible.
“We want to gain a more accurate picture of the experiences of all cancer patients to allow us to improve the way their care is delivered and to speed up treatment times wherever possible.
“A number of clinicians have called on us to trial a single suspected cancer pathway and we will use the results to help us to continue to improve the care people receive.”
The pilot started on May 1st and will run until September 30th. Performance against the current 31-day and 62-day targets will continue to be measured and reported as normal.