Urgent cancer referrals rise close to levels before Covid-19 outbreak, says Shropshire hospital boss
Urgent cancer referrals continue to rise and are close to levels before the coronavirus outbreak, the boss of Shropshire's two major hospitals has said.
Louise Barnett, chief executive of the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, said there are also plans in place to swiftly reduce a patient backlog and, where planned cancer surgery had to be delayed, most surgeries have now taken place.
In her report to the trust's board of directors, she says the process of restoring services has started and, as cancer and urgent activity becomes more stable, additional routine outpatient appointments, diagnostic tests and surgery is being re-established.
However, she also mentions backlogs have built up and additional capacity is being sought to support the trust, which runs Royal Shrewsbury Hospital and Telford's Princess Royal Hospital.
Services already restored include fertility, gynaecology, bowel and breast screening.
In the report, Ms Barnett says: "Capacity will remain a key challenge for the trust, not only in terms of inpatient beds but also capacity for diagnostics and outpatient services. We are planning carefully for the months ahead including winter.
"Cancer screening, which is commissioned centrally, was delayed nationwide to protect people from Covid-19 and allow NHS staff who run screening programmes to support other services.
"While cancer treatment has continued, some patients have had their chemotherapy regimen adjusted in order to continue their treatment while reducing the risk of contracting Covid-19.
"Some planned cancer surgery was also delayed or with patient consent, alternative therapies have been provided.
"Most surgeries have now taken place, with plans in place to see outstanding patients as soon as possible.
"It is important to note that urgent cancer referrals were not stopped.
"Two week wait referrals continue to rise and are close to pre-Covid levels in many specialities.
"SaTH performance is well over 96 per cent for these patients.
"A programme of work is under way to complete diagnosis and treatment for all patients on a cancer pathway, including those designated low risk with an aim to reduce the backlog of more than 62 days by 20 per cent by the end of August."
A ‘two week wait’ referral is a request from your GP to ask the hospital for an urgent appointment for you, because you have symptoms that might indicate that you have cancer.
There is also a standard in the NHS that at least 85 per cent of patients should begin treatment for cancer within 62 days of an urgent referral from their GP.
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