Wales

Modest cancer waiting times improvement in Wales

Patient - model
Image caption The health secretary said there were "real improvements" in treatment times

There has been a modest improvement in cancer waiting times in Wales, with the NHS meeting one of its key targets but continuing to miss another by some margin.

Latest figures for May show 98.3% of patients, not initially referred for suspected cancer but subsequently diagnosed with the disease, started treatment within 31 days.

This was up from 96.7% in April.

The target is 98% and had been last met in February.

Four of the six health boards in Wales which provide cancer care met the target, however Aneurin Bevan and Cardiff and Vale health boards fell short.

However, NHS Wales continues to miss its other key cancer target of making sure 95% of patients initially diagnosed with suspected cancer should start treatment within 62 days.

In May, 88.6% of patients being treated through this route started treatment within two months - up from 86.7% in April.

But none of the health boards in Wales, individually, met this target.

'Demanding'

Last December, Health Secretary Vaughan Gething - then deputy health minister - ordered health boards to produce 100-day plans to improve cancer services and waiting times.

Responding to the latest statistics, Mr Gething said: "We are treating more people than ever for cancer in Wales and crucially, cancer survival rates continue to increase year-on-year.

"It's encouraging that health boards are improving performance and ensuring that more people are starting treatment within the target times.

"In particular, I'm pleased to see that health boards have met the demanding 98% 31-day target and are improving against the 62-day target.

"In the last 12 months we have seen a 3.6% increase in the number of patients who started treatment within the 62-day target.

"We are seeing real improvements, not just against these targets for treatment times but in outcomes."

He said more than half of people would now survive five years after their diagnosis and premature cancer deaths had fallen around 14% in the past 10 years.

But Susan Morris, head of services at Macmillan Cancer Support in Wales said she was "disappointed" that the 62-day target for treating people with cancer has been missed again meaning that 69 people did not start their treatment on time in May.

"While we are pleased that the 31-day treatment target was met, this still meant that 14 people did not start their cancer treatment within this time," she said.

"A delay in starting cancer treatment can cause increased anxiety to people with cancer and their loved ones at an already difficult time."

Meanwhile, new figures show the performance of emergency care departments in Wales has improved slightly but continues to be well below target.

Figures for June show 83.3% of patients spent less than four hours in urgent care departments before being before being admitted, transferred or discharged.

That is up slightly from 82.6% in May.

The target is that 95% of patients should spend less than four hours in A&E but this has never been met.

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