• Patients less likely to access treatment compared with elsewhere in the country
  • Delay in patient pathways blamed
  • Trust has enhanced tracking of patients

A trust has made changes to its lung cancer service after concerns patients were much less likely to access chemotherapy and other anti-cancer therapies than elsewhere in the country.

Recent board papers from East Kent Hospitals University Foundation Trust noted the service was found to be an “outlier” in two areas in the 2018 national lung cancer audit, which focuses on patients diagnosed in 2017.

Only 50 per cent of the trust’s small cell lung cancer patients accessed chemotherapy, compared with a national mean of 70.7 per cent, and 47 per cent of those with advanced non-small cell lung cancer had systemic anti-cancer therapy, compared with a national mean of 65 per cent.

The trust’s one-year survival rate for lung cancer patients was also below the national mean at 34 per cent compared to 36.7 per cent, although the audit found this difference was not significant.

A report to the trust board said the main reason for the outlier status related to “delay in the lung cancer patient pathways, creating different treatment choices for patients”.

According to Cancer Research UK, 80 per cent of lung cancer patients survive for at least a year if diagnosed in the early stages of the disease, while only 15 per cent with the most advanced form of the disease will survive a year.

A trust spokeswoman said compliance for lung cancer, for both the two-week wait to be seen for cancer referrals and 31-day diagnosis to treatment standard, have been above 90 per cent since April 2016, and the trust was 100 per cent compliant for both in December.

“Our 62-day referral compliance is improving all the time, and was 81.9 per cent in December 2018,” she added.

However, NHS England data has revealed the trust’s performance against the 62-day target – which measures the time from urgent GP referral to start of treatment – in 2017 dropped as low as 42 per cent in one quarter.

“We have worked with our partners in the community to ensure patients are aware of the reasons for their referral, to minimise cancelled and missed appointments, and with the Kent Oncology Centre to support treatment decisions,” she continued.

“Two new Macmillan lung cancer clinical nurses have been recruited to the team and we now use an electronic patient tracking list to monitor patient pathways more closely and work hard to deliver timely care to all our patients.

“Sometimes, different treatment options have to be made available for patients, depending on their personal choices and wishes at different stages of their illness.”