A specific spike in demand has resulted in Northumberland’s worst recorded performance against the cancer waiting-time targets.
A report to Northumberland County Council’s health and wellbeing board last Thursday revealed that there has been a surge in the demand for urology cancer services in recent months, in line with other areas of the country.
It said: ‘Northumberland has seen a growth of 13 per cent in two-week wait referrals and 24 per cent growth in 62-day activity in 2018/19 compared with the previous year. In addition, (there has been) 42 per cent growth in urology patients on the 62-day pathway when compared with a similar period.
‘This has resulted in the CCG’s (NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group) worst recorded performance against the overall target of 85 per cent of patients being treated within 62 days of GP referral.’
Dr Robin Hudson, the GP cancer lead, said that this increase in demand could be down to BBC newsreader Bill Turnbull’s high-profile diagnosis of prostate cancer, together with the recent NHS campaign – Blood in your pee.
The CCG has been working alongside the local providers to improve pathways and reduce delays, while the providers have created additional capacity, however, they do not expect to meet the national performance standards until early in 2019.
But there were also plenty of positives in the update report on the 2018-23 Northumberland Cancer Strategy and associated action plan, which aims for fewer people getting preventable cancers and more people surviving for longer after a diagnosis of cancer.
Dr Hudson explained that the proportion of adults who smoke in Northumberland dropped from 16.9 per cent in 2016 to 13 per cent last year, a fall of around 10,000 residents, while the drug and alcohol steering group is making excellent progress in reducing harm from alcohol.
A new coordinator, appointed in March this year, has been carrying out a significant amount of community engagement work on cancer awareness, while a Cancer Research UK programme is visiting GP practices across the county to provide support, analysis and training.
Plus, Northumberland and the local providers performed exceptionally well in the national patient cancer experience survey, receiving one of the highest scores across the country.
Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service