Health and social care trusts must improve their performance to ensure patients start cancer treatment on time following GP referrals, Northern Ireland’s public accounts committee has said.
In a report examining health and social care sector performance during 2012/13 and 2013/14, the committee highlighted that no hospital was able to ensure that 95% of patients began their treatment for cancer within the 62-day standard.
The committee also said it was ‘worrying’ that the proportion of patients seen within 14 days of an urgent referral for breast cancer had fallen from 84% in 2013/14 to 81% in 2014/15.
Meeting the standards has been difficult because the number of GP referrals has increased in recent years, the committee concluded.
The report states: ‘While delays in all types of appointments can cause pain and distress for patients and their families, the committee was particularly concerned that trusts have been failing to meet important cancer waiting time standards for patients.
’Performance against the standard that 95% of cancer patients should start treatment within 62 weeks of being urgently referred by a GP is a crucial indicator of the readiness of the health and social care sector.’