QA boss defends its cancer figures after criticism

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THE medical director of the trust that runs Queen Alexandra Hospital has defended its cancer figures and elective surgery waiting times.

As reported, the Portsmouth, Fareham and Gosport, and South Eastern Hampshire CCGs wrote three separate letters to Ursula Ward – the chief executive of Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs QA – over concerns about patient care.

The trust was criticised for missing national targets in some areas of cancer care, waiting times for elective surgery and in its A&E department.

And October results of the Friends and Family Test – a survey to see if patients would recommend services – found the trust scored the lowest in the country.

The News has published figures for cancer targets in the eight areas its compared with national benchmarks, and figures for waiting times for elective treatments.

It shows the trust hit the benchmarks the majority of the time, however there were some months where it slipped back.

Last September and October, the trust was only at 76.1 per cent, and 73.2 per cent respectively, in making sure elective patients were treated within 18 weeks.

The national benchmark is 90 per cent, and for the other months of the year it hit this target.

And the figures are similar for cancer, whereby the trust performs to the national standard, but can slip.

It’s this inconsistency, which concerns the CCGs.

Simon Holmes, medical director of PHT, said: ‘The national benchmarks were set up about eight years ago to catch up with Europe in terms of cancer mortalities.

‘We will not achieve every single target, but we have been good.

‘Some targets involve small numbers of people – two patients could mean we are missing the target.

‘This could be because patients are sent to us late, as they come in from Chichester, the Isle of Wight, and even Jersey.

‘Sometimes patients choose to wait for treatment, as it may be close to Christmas, or there are prebooked holidays.

‘Last year there was a 23 per cent increase in the number of GP referrals we had, but the numbers of cancers diagnosed stayed the same.

‘So more patients are being sent to us, and it’s not easy to manage.

‘But we are keen to improve.’

Mr Holmes said the trust reviews its patients’ waiting times each week and makes sure any breach to targets does not affect people’s lives.

He added: ‘With elective surgery, such as a hernia operations or gallbladder, are not life threatening, so other urgent cases can go ahead.

‘Or if we have a backlog of patients waiting in a certain area, we will talk to the CCGs and let them know.’

Dr Jim Hogan is the lead for the Portsmouth CCG, he said: ‘We are really pleased to hear about this improved performance and clearly this will be very welcome news for patients.

‘Hopefully this is a sign that we might have the green shoots of recovery in both cancer targets and their elective waiting times.

‘But our ongoing concern remains that we need to know that PHT has the processes and resources in place to deliver and meet all their targets on a continual and sustained basis.

‘That is what we must all continue to work towards.’