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Recovery plan to improve Shropshire hospital cancer targets

By Lisa O'Brien | Shrewsbury | Health | Published:

A recovery plan has been drawn up to ensure the trust running Shropshire’s two main hospitals improves its key cancer waiting targets.

Patients who are given an urgent referral for suspected cancer by their GP are expected to be able to see a specialist within a fortnight.

But a report to Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group’s governance board says performance at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH) deteriorated last year due to capacity issues in breast radiology and dermatology.

Patients given an urgent referral are also meant to start treatment within 62 days – but performance started to go off track in August, the report says.

NHS Improvement investigated the issue at the trust last month and has had input into a cancer recovery plan.

The CCG report, which has been written by its director of performance and delivery, Dr Julie Davies, says: “SaTH has historically had good cancer performance across the full range of targets but two-week and 62-day referral to treatment performance have both deteriorated. The CCG issued performance notices related to this when quarter two performance was published.

“As a result NHS Improvement came in and did a deep dive on cancer services in the trust in early December.

“This helped identify the underlying issues which have now been brought together with existing remedial action plans into a single SaTH cancer recovery plan. Drafts have been shared with commissioners and the final plan is expected to be agreed today. NHS Improvement and NHS England have agreed this will be used to manage the required improvement in performance.”

The report says actions have already been taken to increase radiology capacity to support breast clinics and SaTH has appointed a second dermatologist.

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Capacity has also been increased in other areas.

Strategy

The report says some patients have chosen to delay their first appointments and an education strategy is being developed to encourage patients to attend them.

On the subject of the 62-day waiting target, the report says it has become more inconsistent since 2017.

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The trust has seen a large increase in referrals into urology for prostate cancer but only has one surgeon who can perform radical prostatectomy surgery.

There are also problems with capacity at tertiary centres, which offer specialist care.

NHS bosses will monitor what progress is made and health commissioners will also carry out weekly progress checks with Sath.

Nigel Lee, chief operating officer at Sath, said: “The trust has seen an increase of 20 per cent in cancer referrals this year, with some specialties seeing more than this; including urology which has seen an increase in referrals of more than 40 per cent.

“We are working with the clinical teams as well as regional partners to continue planning to manage the treatment of cancer patients.

“Importantly, Sath remains one of the top performers in the country for diagnostics which is a vital part of any treatment pathway, with more than 99 per cent of patients needing a diagnostic test, such as a CT or MRI scan, receiving their test within six weeks.

"For patients with suspected cancer, these tests usually take place within two weeks.”

Lisa O'Brien

By Lisa O'Brien
Senior Reporter - @lisaobrien_Star

Senior reporter based at Shropshire Star's head office in Ketley. Covering the Telford area.

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