• Just 53 per cent of patients at BSUH started cancer treatment in 62 days
  • Only four trusts performed worse against target in July
  • BSUH’s performance has fallen dramatically since March, when it was 71 per cent

An acute trust’s performance against the 62-day cancer treatment target has slipped to one of the worst in the country after a sudden rise in referral numbers. 

NHS England’s figures for July showed Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Trust started treatment for just 53 per cent of cancer patients within 62 days, while 8.5 per cent of patients had waited more than 104 days. 

Only four trusts had a lower performance against the 62-day target and these were all specialist providers.

BSUH’s performance has deteriorated markedly since March, when it was 71 per cent against the 85 per cent target. The trust received a significant increase in suspected cancer referrals in April and March this year compared with the previous year, particularly in colorectal (11 per cent increase in referrals), gynaecological (20 per cent), and upper gastrointestinal (27 per cent).

It said the issues behind its slump in performance were multifactoral but included staff vacancies, problems in diagnostics earlier in the year, and equipment malfunctions, including power supply problems with a CT scanner and issues in endoscopy which led to some work needing to be outsourced.

BSUH chief medical officer George Findlay said: “We aim to start cancer treatment for every patient within 62 days of their diagnosis in line with national standards. We are working hard to adapt the way we work to give cancer patients the care they need.

“Since July, we have introduced diagnostic sessions in the evenings and at weekends and have outsourced CT scans to ensure treatment starts sooner. We are also working hard to recruit additional staff, introduce virtual clinics and make use of additional theatre capacity.”

Dr Findlay also noted that, since the end of August, the number of patients waiting for longer than 62 days to start treatment had reduced by 29 per cent. He added the trust expected to be fully compliant with the 62-day standard by the end of the year and to meet the two-week wait standard of 93 per cent in September.

Rob Haigh, BSUH’s medical director, said: “BSUH is working hard to ensure those patients who have been waiting the longest for cancer treatment are prioritised and seen as quickly as possible.”

HSJ reported in July that the trust has struggled to meet diagnostic targets with 29 per cent of patients waiting longer than the six week target.

HSJ Provider Summit

The HSJ Provider Summit, taking place at the Crowne Plaza, Stratford-upon-Avon from 22-23 April 2020, unites 120+ board members from provider trusts across the country with those shaping national policy, to share best-in-class initiatives in delivering cost-effective and high-quality care for their local populations.

Held under the Chatham House Rule, attendees will co-develop solutions to their local challenges with colleagues from across the country. The summit is free to attend for board-level NHS leaders.