With around 50,000 new cases every year, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in males in the UK – accounting for around a quarter of all new cancer cases. Survival rates are linked to early diagnosis and treatment.
North East Fife MSP Willie Rennie has called for improvements in waiting times after new figures showed almost 40% of cancer waiting time breaches in February occurred in Fife’s urology department at the Royal Victoria Hospital.
NHS Fife has attributed the delays on national staff shortages and delays in some diagnostic services such as MRI scanning, biopsies and appointments. Chief Executive Paul Hawkins claimed that most people started treatment within the target time but said work was under way to further improve matters.
Mr Rennie said: “This record on cancer waiting times is concerning. In Fife, in February, only 85.6% of cancer patients started treatment within 62 days of an urgent suspected cancer referral, a 7.5% drop in comparison to January. A referral because of suspected cancer is a stressful time for patients and their families and long waits can cause significant harm to both physical and mental wellbeing. I hope to see progress with a swift response to these waits so we can see some improvement soon.”
Mr Hawkins said patients requiring urgent treatment for the most aggressive forms of cancer most often began treatment within a matter of days.
“Meeting the 95% performance target has proven particularly challenging over recent months due to delays in a small number of specialities, It is important to note, however, that the vast majority of patients continue to be seen within the 62-day standard with only a small number of those requiring non-urgent treatment waiting beyond this time.”
The chief executive said well-documented shortages nationally in urology had had an effect on Fife and elsewhere. “Delays in some diagnostic services have increased waiting times for prostate cancer and work is under way to improve the pathway for such patients in order to reduce waiting times,”
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