North Mid cancer backlog reducing but target still missed

North Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust says backlog for cancer treatment “greatly reduced” since late last year, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

North Middlesex Hospital
North Middlesex Hospital

North Mid has reduced a backlog of cancer patients waiting more than 62 days for treatment but is still missing a key target.

North Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust was in the top ten most challenged organisations for cancer performance during December and January, when on average more than 20% of patients in its cancer backlog were waiting more than 62 days for treatment.

Since then, the trust says the backlog has “greatly reduced”, with fewer than 97 patients waiting more than 62 days compared to 305 patients in January.

The national target is for at least 85% of patients to start a first treatment for cancer within two months (62 days) of an urgent GP referral. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, which caused delays to cancer treatments, 88.9% of the trust’s patients were treated within the 62-day target time.

Performance at the Edmonton hospital last year peaked at around 60% in September before dropping to a low of 30.8% in November. In January, just 31.5% of the trust’s patients were treated within the target time, although “provisional performance” for February indicates the figure had risen above 60%.

The data is set out in a report that was presented to a meeting of the trust’s board on Thursday (30th), which states that performance is expected to increase in February and March thanks to a range of initiatives including “sustained higher levels of MRI and CT capacity”.

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Shola Adegoroye, the trust’s chief operating officer, told the meeting that cancer performance was a “positive news story”, as an action plan that the trust had put in place had led to a “significant reduction” in the patient backlog.

She added: “At the time of this report, there were 107 patients waiting over 62 days. Our target is 97, and I can report as of today we have achieved our end-of-year target to reduce our backlog and we are below 97 patients waiting.”

The report also shows the percentage of patients waiting under 18 weeks to be treated – described as the ‘referral to treatment’ time – was 71.6% during February, compared to a national target of 92%.

No patients have been waiting more than 104 weeks, but the trust is set to miss a target to reduce 78-week waits to zero by March. Shola said 15 to 20 patients had been waiting 78 weeks, adding that industrial action and the cancellation of some elective work “had some impact on that”.

The number of patients waiting longer than twelve hours to be admitted to North Mid’s accident and emergency (A&E) department fell from 859 in December to 692 in February. The percentage of A&E patients waiting less than four hours for treatment, discharge, or a decision to admit was 64.8% – up from 58.3% in December but still well below the 95% target.

Shola said there had been a fall in A&E attendances but high demand for beds, which came during “one of the harshest winters the NHS has experienced.”

The report shows 383 patients had to wait longer than an hour to be moved from an ambulance to the A&E department after arriving at the hospital in February – up from 333 in December.

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