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Calls to ‘do right’ by Lancashire cancer patients facing terrifying wait

Posted on - 2nd October, 2023 - 1:39pm | Author - | Posted in - Politics, Preston Council, Preston News, Sharoe Green
Royal Preston Hospital car park
Royal Preston Hospital

A Preston Liberal Democrat councillor says that the party’s new pledge on cancer is vital for the majority of Central Lancashire patients who are waiting longer than they should be to begin treatment for the disease.

The Lib Dem conference ended last week with a promise to introduce a legal guarantee that anyone needing cancer treatment should start to receive it within two months – 62 days – of first being referred for investigation.

Currently, the government target is for 85 percent of cancer patients to be under way with treatment like radiotherapy or chemotherapy within that timeframe, but the ambition has not been met at an England-wide level since 2015.

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Locally, at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (LTH) – which operates the Royal Preston and Chorley and South Ribble hospitals – only 47 percent of people began treatment in less than 62 days during July, the latest month for which figures are available.

John Potter – who leads the Liberal Democrat group on Preston City Council – says that it must be “terrifying” for anyone to be left fearing that their cancer could progress while they are on a lengthy waiting list.

Cllr John Potter
Liberal Democrat group leader, Preston City Council
Cllr John Potter, Liberal Democrat group leader, Preston City Council

“Everyone knows someone whose life has been turned upside down by cancer,” Cllr Potter said.

“Far too many people are still waiting far too long for a diagnosis, or to start treatment after being diagnosed. We must do right by them and get them the care they need when they need it.”

He also told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) that there is no escaping the need for extra investment in order to make his party’s promise a reality.   It comes as part of a broader £4bn package of proposed measures to tackle cancer over the course of five years – including a halving of the time it takes for new treatments to be approved from the current average of 11 months.

However, Cllr Potter – who is also the Lib Dem candidate for the Ribble Valley constituency at the next general election – says that one of the main priorities must be investing in the equipment used in cancer treatment.

“One of the issues with the NHS over recent years is the lack of capital spending.  So now we’re getting old bits of kit that have to be replaced – because you can’t have a 21st century health service with kit that isn’t up to scratch” he added.

Earlier this year, the Royal Preston took delivery of a new machine which enables earlier diagnosis of – and more targeted treatment for – lung cancer. The £237,000 cost was covered by the Rosemere Cancer Foundation charity.

Last month, LTH chief operating officer Faith Button – currently the trust’s interim chief executive – told the LDRS that the organisation had already surpassed an NHS England target that it had been set for next March to have no more than 180 patients waiting longer than 62 days for their first treatment.   The latest figure for the trust is 175, which was ”back to pre-Covid levels”, she added.

The 62-day 85 percent measure is one of a small number of nationwide cancer targets to remain under a simplified system introduced this month, as is the 28-day “faster diagnosis” standard. That seeks to ensure that at least 75 percent of patients suspected of having cancer are told one way or the other within four weeks – and LTH is already just ahead of the target.

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