Tuesday 26 March 2019

Nearly 45pc of hospitals miss urgent breast cancer targets

Cork University Hospital
Cork University Hospital
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Almost 45pc of hospitals are missing the two-week time target to assess women with potentially urgent symptoms of breast cancer.

The delays, revealed in the latest performance report from the HSE, mean that some patients are being diagnosed later than they should.

The worst record was at Cork University Hospital, where the two-week target was achieved in only 20pc of cases.

The Mater Hospital and St James's Hospital in Dublin both met the two-week target for 43pc of patients.

The statistics also show poor performance among a number of hospitals in seeing women with non-urgent symptoms in the target time of 12 weeks.

St James's Hospital ranked lowest with University Hospital Waterford slightly better, but still only managing to see 21pc of patients in that time.

Meanwhile, other HSE-run rapid access clinics are failing to meet recommended deadlines to give patients with suspected lung or prostate cancer an appointment.

Just four out of eight hospitals reached the target to assess patients referred with urgent lung cancer symptoms in 10 days.

Outliers included University Hospital Limerick and Cork University Hospital.

Similarly, three out of eight rapid access clinics for prostate cancer were not seeing men with suspected symptoms in 20 working days.

Just one-third of men attending these clinics in Cork University Hospital and University Hospital Limerick were assessed in that time.

Overall, just 74pc of patients with suspected breast cancer and 77pc of patients who could have had other types of cancer were seen in the recommended time last year.

The target of seeing 95pc was missed and there was a range of variance among the hospitals.

A spokeswoman for the HSE said there was "sustained improvement in the performance data for urgent referrals to symptomatic breast disease clinics recorded in the final three months of 2018".

This reflects a review of the pathways taken by the HSE's National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) in all centres and was facilitated by some additional funding.

The spokeswoman said that "as the current system has been in place for a decade, the NCCP is currently in the process of reviewing the referral guideline.

"We would anticipate any changes, if required, would be agreed over the coming months.

The HSE said it expects there to be an increase in cancer cases nationally of about 50pc between 2010 and 2025.

"The number of patients having cancer-directed surgery is predicted to increase by 50-55pc between 2010 and 2025, chemotherapy by 42-48pc, and radiotherapy by 32-35pc," it added.

Irish Independent

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