Cancer Treatment Waiting Times in Wales Fall Below Target, Discrepancies Across Health Boards

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Fresh statistics from the Welsh Government indicate that just over 50% of individuals in Wales commence cancer treatment within the government’s 62-day target from initial suspicion of the disease. The data, released for November 2023, reveals a decrease from the preceding month, raising concerns about health boards’ ability to meet the 75% target set by the Welsh Government.

As per the latest figures, the Wales-wide average for patients starting treatment within the 62-day timeframe was 53.5%, down from 56.2% in October. This data suggests an ongoing challenge to reach the government’s benchmark, with no health board in Wales ever achieving the 75% target.

Looking into regional differences, the health board with the highest percentage of patients starting treatment within the specified timeframe was Betsi Cadwaladr, recording 58.8%. Conversely, Hywel Dda showed a significant lag, with only 40.5% of patients receiving treatment within the target period.

While these figures fluctuate monthly, a discernible trend indicates areas making better progress in meeting the 62-day target. For example, Hywel Dda consistently ranked lower in previous months, indicating sustained challenges in timely cancer treatment initiation.

The release of additional healthcare data also illuminates the strain on NHS services in Wales. In December, the 111 helpline service received over 95,000 calls, marking a substantial increase of approximately 24,500 calls compared to the previous month. Although over 82% of these calls were answered, it represents the highest figure on record.

Red (life-threatening) calls to the ambulance service in December numbered 5,411, constituting 14.3% of all calls. The average daily count of immediately life-threatening calls increased by 19 from November, the second-highest on record. While 48.9% of red calls received an emergency response within eight minutes, challenges persist in managing the escalating demand for emergency services.

Concerning outpatient appointments, the number of patient pathways waiting longer than one year increased to around 53,900, reflecting a 47.5% decrease from the peak in August 2022. However, the proportion of patient pathways waiting less than 26 weeks decreased to 58.3% in November, indicating challenges in achieving timely care for non-emergency cases.

Responding to the data, Health Minister Eluned Morgan acknowledged the dedication of NHS staff under challenging circumstances. She expressed delight at the overall reduction in the number of people on waiting lists but cautioned that sustaining these improvements might prove challenging in the coming months.

Morgan highlighted positive trends, such as improvements in ambulance response times and reduced patient handover delays. She emphasised the importance of new detailed data in helping health boards identify areas for targeted resource allocation. However, she acknowledged the persistent pressure on healthcare services, citing record-high call volumes to NHS 111 Wales and an increased number of daily red calls.

The Health Minister concluded by stating that while progress has been made, there is more work to be done. Health boards will continue to collaborate to address the longest waiting times and improve the delivery of planned care services.

In summary, the latest data underscores the ongoing challenges in meeting cancer treatment targets in Wales, with variations across health boards. As the healthcare system grapples with increased demand and pressure on services, the Welsh Government remains committed to working with health boards to enhance patient care and reduce waiting times.

Danielle Trigg
Danielle Trigg
Journalist Danielle is a skilled journalist specializing in regional coverage across the United Kingdom. With her wealth of experience and in-depth knowledge, Danielle dives into the stories that matter to local communities. Her meticulous research and engaging writing style captivate readers, providing them with a comprehensive understanding of the dynamic business landscape. Danielle's commitment to delivering accurate and thought-provoking news sets her apart, making her an invaluable asset to the News Write Ups team.

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