One in two of us will have to directly contend with cancer during our lifetimes, and all of us will be indirectly affected, one way or another. My family was confronted with that harsh reality 30 months ago when my husband was diagnosed.
Thankfully, due to the NHS’s swift diagnostic skill, amazing new technology and wonderful surgical expertise, he has made a full recovery.
Early diagnosis and rapid access to treatment is critical and I am therefore very concerned that recent figures show only 61% of Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust cancer patients are being treated within the recommended two-month period. This is 24% below the national target and represents the worst performance by any NHS Trust in the country. I think patients, doctors and administrators would all agree that this is not good enough.
Last week I wrote to Miles Scott, Chief Executive of The Trust, seeking reasons and plans for urgent improvements. I understand that an un-forecasted 23% increase in patient referrals for urgent treatment is part of the cause. To their credit The Trust have already recruited additional staff and invested in new facilities resulting in a reduction in treatment delays since the abovementioned statistics were recorded.
Improving treatment for cancer patients forms a central plank of the Government’s Long Term NHS Plan and some of the extra £20 billion a year in promised funding is being designated for overhauling screening programmes, investing in state-of-the-art technology and boosting research to help more people diagnosed with cancer live longer.
With renewed focus and their share of the extra NHS cash, I am hopeful that our Trust will ensure nobody in Maidstone and The Weald will have to wait longer than 62 days for their cancer treatment. I will remain in close contact with Miles and his team as further plans roll out and I will help seek funding whenever I am asked.