Posted on 22 Aug 2013

Targets Missed for RD&E Cancer Treatment Waiting Times

A cancer diagnosis carries so many connotations,' says Michelmores' Oliver Thorne. 'It's a frightening, anxious time, where people really start to look at their lives in a totally different way. If you throw in the added stress of having to wait longer for treatment, you're going to find that a lot of people suffer more than is necessary.

The NHS watchdog Monitor is preparing to launch an inquiry into the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital (RD&E), following reports that patients referred there by GPs were waiting too long for cancer treatment. The hospital defended their recent progress in adhering to time rules, and blamed an unexpected influx of patients from North Devon and Torbay for the pressure on services.

Oliver, a Chartered Legal Executive in Michelmores' Clinical Negligence team, has extensive experience in cases involving negligent and delayed diagnosis, and knows only too well the difficulty that these situations pose for individuals, both as patients and, later, legal clients. 'From a legal perspective,' he says, 'cases involving treatment delays are particularly complex and technical.

'You need to prove that it was more likely than not that, had the treatment been given at the correct time, the damage to the patient would not have occurred, or would at least have been less severe. Of course with cancer, delay can result in death. The whole thing is fraught enough for the patient, without them wondering when their next appointment will take place.'

Waiting times are centralized, in line with Government pledges, and enshrined in the NHS Constitution. Under this guidance, a patient subject to an urgent cancer referral should be seen by a consultant within 2 weeks, and for all other cancer cases no more than 2 months should pass between referral for suspected cancer and treatment.

Subsequent cancer treatment, such as follow-up operations, should be received within 31 days. The time stipulations for cancer treatment waiting times are generally shorter than those for other medical conditions, reflecting the need for prompt treatment. RD&E maintains that only around 6 patients a month had waited longer for treatment, with many of the delays being less than a week.

Western Morning News Article on the RD&E.

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