Whittington Hospital trust misses breast cancer referral targets

Target times for treating woman with suspected breast cancer are being missed at the Whittington, new figures have revealed.

Whittington Health treated 88 per cent of patients within the 14-day GP referral time limit in March, falling short of its 93 per cent target.

The trust, which oversees the hospital, has only hit its target on three separate months between May 2012 and March 2013. The figures were published in a performance report in a meeting of the trust’s board directors last Wednesday.

NHS guidelines require a patient with breast cancer symptoms to be seen by a specialist within two weeks of visiting their GP. Breakdown of the statistics shows 14 out of 117 referrals were not given appointments within the expected time frame.

Rachel Rawson, clinical nurse specialist at the charity Breast Cancer Care, said: “For people referred by their GP with breast symptoms, the waiting time can inevitably cause a great deal of anxiety and waiting longer may increase worry. It may still turn out to be benign. However, prompt detection can lead to more effective treatments if diagnosed.”

Whittington Health said there have been “capacity issues” and steps are being taken to improve results.

A spokeswoman from the trust said: “We take the two-week target very seriously and as a result we have taken steps to increase capacity, and we have reviewed patient and consultant clinic slots.

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“We have introduced a daily tracking system to ensure even closer monitoring of cancer referrals.”