28 Oct 2015

DHB seeks to improve cancer treatment speed

12:00 pm on 28 October 2015

Some cancer patients in the top of the South Island are not getting treatment as fast as they should, but the health board says steps are in place to improve the situation.

No caption

Photo: 123rf.com

Nelson Marlborough District Health Board chief executive Chris Fleming said providing faster cancer treatment for patients remained a critical issue, and it was an issue Director General of Health Chai Chuah had highlighted as an area where it underperformed.

It aimed to get diagnosis and treatment within 62 days for 85 percent of those with a high suspicion of cancer, he said.

Provisional figures for the September quarter showed just over 56 percent got faster cancer treatment.

Changes made by the Ministry of Health to the way cases were defined - from 'confirmed cancer' to 'suspected cancer' - aimed to make the patient process more efficient, board members heard yesterday at its monthly meeting.

Patients who showed positive results, but who still needed further investigation to confirm a diagnosis, were now to be triaged as having a 'high suspicion of cancer' and included within the Fast Cancer Treatment (FCT) health targets.

In the year to date, the poorest areas of performance for accessing fast treatment was in cases of urological cancer, followed by lung cancer, then head and neck cancers.

Those who got treatment fastest were patients with breast cancer. Only two of the total 36 patients got treatment 62 days after diagnosis; all the remainder were treated within that timeframe.

Mr Fleming said they hoped to appoint an additional oncologist.

The board has recently succeeded in being considered for funding for a number of other initiatives aimed at improving pathways to diagnosis and treatment.