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Concern expressed as cancer assessment waiting times increase

According to the Health Service Performance Report October-December 2016, waiting times for assessments for breast, lung and prostate cancer, as well as radiotherapy, are all below HSE targets.

The Society is urging the Government, HSE and the Executive’s National Cancer Control Programme to put resources in place to alleviate pressures on services.

The data reveals that, in December, 78.1 per cent of urgent breast cancer referrals were seen within two weeks, despite a HSE target of 95 per cent.

Some 99.5 per cent of women who were classed as urgent by the cancer centre were seen within two weeks of referral in 2015 but this fell to 78.1 per cent in 2016.

Some 84.6 per cent of rapid-access lung referrals were seen within 10 working days in December, despite a target of 95 per cent.

Just 65.1 per cent of rapid-access prostate referrals were seen within 20 working days in December, an increase from November (46.7 per cent). The target is 90 per cent.

The report notes that attracting and retaining consultant staff, particularly in urology, continues to be a challenge, along with the growth in referrals for all specialties.

“The Irish Cancer Society is worried by the waiting time trends in 2016, especially when you compare the data to 2015,” said Mr Donal Buggy, the Society’s Head of Services and Advocacy. “However, even though 2015 was a better year, waiting times for cancer services were still performing below the HSE’s own targets. What is particularly worrying from a patient perspective is the uncertainty around when their case will be assessed.”

Mr Buggy also highlighted the inequality in waiting time assessments for breast cancer in hospitals.

Data shows that the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, Dublin, St Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin, and University Hospital Waterford all assess urgent breast cancer referrals within the two-week target. However, at St James’s Hospital, Dublin, only 22.1 per cent of women are seen within that time frame.

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