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Highland Life / News / NHS Highland / Faster cancer treatment in Highland

Faster cancer treatment in Highland

Issued: 26 Nov 2007

Highland cancer patients are benefiting from faster diagnosis and treatment. Figures released today show that NHS Highland met the national waiting times target during the second quarter of this year (April to June).

The target states that 95% of patients referred urgently by a GP will have been diagnosed and their treatment started within 62 days. NHS Highland's latest performance figure is 95.7%. This is an improvement of more than 20% on the previous quarter and is the joint highest figure of any mainland health board in Scotland.

Dr Leo McClymont, Lead cancer clinician for NHS Highland said: "These latest figures are excellent news. I have never had any doubt about the quality of cancer services in Highland but now we have shown that we can deliver on the waiting times target as well. Rapid diagnosis and treatment of cancer is essential not only because it generally improves the chance of cure but it also greatly reduces the associated stress and anxiety. The sooner a patient gets diagnosed and started on a treatment plan the better. Cancer waiting times have been top of the NHS Highland agenda for the past year and a sharply focused managerial and clinical effort, coupled with substantial investment in staff and equipment has delivered these results which we all can be proud of."

Cancer Network Manager Christine McIntosh said: "Today's figures show that the hard work of staff over many months is really making a difference for patients. The Board is hugely appreciative of the Highland team approach and for the intensive efforts by staff across all Specialist and Rural General Hospital sites, and throughout departments. Our staff know more than anyone the need to diagnose positive cases early and provide timely reassurance to the majority who do not have the disease."

A target of 62 days[1] means every day has to count. Referral has been speeded up with traditional letters replaced by electronic methods. Every patient's journey[2] is closely monitored by clinicians and managers to ensure no-one is waiting needlessly.

Mrs McIntosh said: "I believe what has made the key difference is much closer co-operation from every part of the organisation, with teams in each hospital helping out across Highland. This significant improvement is due to Cancer waiting times having had the highest priority; through the Executive Leadership of the Chief Operating Officer, Elaine Mead, leadership from each of the Cancer Clinicians and from General Mangers, as well as a terrific response from staff to our demands for continuous improvement."

In addition to the work by frontline staff and support staff, to monitor and minimise delays, close scrutiny of the progress of those patients most at risk of delays takes place weekly via a four-site video conference. Each delay is looked at in detail, and rapid solutions agreed. Participating in the weekly conference are; lead cancer clinician, senior managers from Caithness General Hospital, Raigmore Hospital, Belford Hospital, Lorne and Isles Hospital in Oban, and the senior officers from NHS Highland's HQ.

To sustain this level of performance NHS Highland has appointed new staff including a consultant in urology and a doctor in oncology who have already started work. Two radiology consultants will join the staff next year (Spring and Summer). In addition other medium term projects will make a big difference to capacity. Our planned Day Case centre will free up time in our existing theatres and the addition of another PET scanner to Scotland should speed up times for this vital test before surgery for lung cancer.

Mrs McIntosh said: "We also thank our patients and patient representatives, who continue to give us a lot of necessary feedback on the services we provide, and on the changes we propose. They each provide a valuable reminder of the need for sensitive, patient focused decisions, and have generally welcomed each of the service improvement initiatives. Opinion surveys towards the end of last year showed a high level of satisfaction and have also lead to better information for patients about tests and what preparation is required. We will continue to ensure their views are heard, and can influence all of our cancer services."

© 2010 Highland Public Services Partnership.
Project part-financed by the European Union (European Regional Development Fund) within the INTERREG IIIB Northern Periphery Programme