Evening and weekend cancer clinics set up to beat long waits

Erika Denton, Medical Director at NNUH. Photo: NNUH

Erika Denton, Medical Director at NNUH. Photo: NNUH - Credit: NNUH

Evening and weekend cancer clinics have been set up and work is under way to create a single waiting list as Norfolk hospitals battle a "significant" increase in cancer referrals. 

Erika Denton, medical director for the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, told Norfolk County Council's Health and Overview Scrutiny committee on Thursday that the single list could come in within a year.

She said under the plan staff and patients may have to travel for treatment and procedures. 

She said: "It is so we won't have that disparity. It was the case historically you could wait six weeks for one thing at one hospital and six months at another hospital."

Papers to the board showed in April 39.7pc of breast cancer patients were seen within two weeks, dropping to 7.8pc at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, against a target of 93pc.

Dr Denton said the trust had to cancel clinics at short notice due to staff isolating from Covid at a time when they were tackling significant increases in referrals. 

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Councillor Brenda Jones asked if it was realistic that hospitals could reduce waiting times for services. 

Dr Denton said: "The three hospitals across Norfolk have the capacity and capability to deliver the cancer care according to government targets and to patient need." 

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The trust is running evening and weekend clinics to meet demand and share resources with the James Paget University Hospital and Queen Elizabeth Hospital to see people within two weeks.

Alison Thomas said she had anecdotal evidence of a patient waiting five weeks for an initial consultation and Mrs Denton said she would be happy to investigate. 

Questions were raised around general practices role in cancer services and representatives from the Norfolk and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group assured the committee, though busy, primary care was open.

Cath Byford, chief nurse, said: "There is still the opportunity to phone the practice. It might be difficult at certain times or days of the week but often the practices can provide a same day conversation with the individual.  

"There are some positives that have come as a result of Covid but we need to continue to make sure they are not a barrier so people do not feel they cannot access a GP."

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