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Queen’s Hospital has high percentage of patients waiting more than six weeks for bowel cancer tests, NHS figures show

PUBLISHED: 06:59 18 October 2018

Queen's Hospital. Picture: Ken Mears

Queen's Hospital. Picture: Ken Mears

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Patients at Queen’s Hospital face some of the longest waiting times for tests for bowel cancer but the hospital trust insists those who are suspected of having cancer are seen to within two weeks.

The waiting times published by NHS England on Thursday, October 11 revealed that at 56 per cent, the Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (BHRUT) hospitals in Rom Valley Way and Goodmayes, have some of the highest percentages of patients waiting more than six weeks for colonoscopy appointments in August 2018.

BHRUT also had the highest percentage of patients waiting more than six weeks for flexible sigmoidoscopy appointments at 65pc.

Bowel Cancer UK’s End the Capacity Crisis campaign is calling on the government to invest in more NHS staff to cope with the rising demand in diagnostic services.

Patients should normally wait no more than six weeks for a colonoscopy test that can detect bowel cancer when it is easier to treat.

However, the figures from NHS England refer to waits for routine tests and patients who are suspected of having cancer would be fast-tracked via BHRUT’s two-week pathyway system.

A spokesman for BHRUT said: “We suffered a fire in May in our endoscopy unit at Queen’s Hospital which has had a big impact on our service. We have taken significant steps, including outsourcing some patients to other services, and running additional clinics and consultant appointments.

“Our clinical teams have triaged and prioritised patients according to their clinical need, so some patients with non-urgent referrals have had to wait slightly longer than usual.

“Our staff went above and beyond to keep patients safe during and after the fire, and have been working tirelessly to maintain a high level of service despite the huge challenges.

“We’d like to thank our patients for their continued understanding as we get the service back up to speed.”

Ahead of the government spending review in November, Bowel Cancer UK is calling on the chancellor of the exchequer, Philip Hammond, and the secretary of state for health and social care, Matt Hancock, to work together to develop a fully funded action plan to tackle NHS staff shortages in diagnostic services for bowel cancer.

“These waiting time figures present a worrying picture for patients and demonstrate the urgent need for the government to make addressing this capacity crisis a national priority,” said Asha Kaur, head of policy and campaigns at Bowel Cancer UK.

“If hospitals are expected to meet waiting time targets then they must be given the resources and capacity to enable them to meet these standards.”

Other hospitals with some of the highest percentage of patients waiting for more than six weeks for colonoscopy appointments in August, were Kings College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust at 44pc and Whittington Heath NHS Trust at 12pc.

The spokesman for BHRUT added: “Patients referred with suspected cancer are continuing to be referred and seen within two weeks.

“We continue to hit the two-week referral national standard, and we have sustained the 62-day standard for cancer treatments for over a year now, making us one of the best performing organisations in the NHS in this area.”

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