Fewer than seven in 10 urological cancer patients treated within two months at Morecambe Bay hospitals trust

Fewer than seven in 10 patients with urological cancer, including prostate cancer, started treatment within the two-month target window at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Trust during the coronavirus lockdown, new figures show.

Wednesday, 23rd September 2020, 3:45 pm
The Royal Lancaster Infirmary.

Prostate Cancer UK said it is critical that men most at risk of their cancer progressing are prioritised for treatment across England while NHS services work to restore their normal service.

As most men with early prostate cancer do not show symptoms, the charity is urging all men at higher risk of developing what is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the UK to contact their GP.

NHS targets state 85% of urological cancer patients – which includes those with prostate, bladder, kidney and penile cancers – should be treated within 62 days.

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But NHS England figures show only 35 of the 51 (69%) urological cancer patients seen at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust between April and July started treatment within 62 days of an urgent GP referral.

That was up from 55% during the same period last year.

Across England, just 65% of people treated for urological cancers received their first treatment within this period, down from 71% in 2019.

The proportion of patients seen within 62 days did improve slightly between June and July, rising from 56% to 67%.

Karen Stalbow, head of policy at Prostate Cancer UK, said: “It’s good news that waiting times for urological referrals are beginning to recover, although there are still up to 1,500 fewer men being seen compared to the same period last year.

“We know that clinicians now need to balance a man’s prostate cancer risk with his risk of contracting Covid-19. Cancer services are also operating at reduced capacity because of the need to socially distance patients and clean equipment.

"While most localised prostate cancers are slow growing, it is critical that men most at risk of their cancer progressing are treated as a priority while the NHS continues to work hard to restore their normal service."

The charity said men at increased risk – over 50s, black men, or those whose father or brother had the disease – should call their GP.

In University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, 70% of all cancer patients received their first treatment within 62 days in July.

This was compared to 78% across England, which Sara Bainbridge, head of policy at Macmillan Cancer Support, said reflects a "worrying backlog".

She added: “Behind each statistic is a real person whose prognosis and treatment options could be severely impacted by disruption during Covid-19.

"It's vital that people see their GP if they have symptoms, and anyone who is worried about cancer needs to know that they'll be seen promptly and safely."

An NHS spokeswoman said: “Hospitals have successfully treated nearly 38,000 men for urological cancer since the beginning of the pandemic, and more people are now coming forward for a cancer check, with 100,000 extra referrals in July compared to April."

Dr Shahedal Bari, Medical Director, UHMBT, said: "Our teams worked exceptionally hard during the pandemic to ensure that we treated all patients in a timely way.

"While we continued to see all patients with cancer, we are disappointed that during the period where we carried out work tackling the pandemic - some of our other patients had to wait longer than we would want for their treatment.

"We are working hard to restore all our services and ensure that we see patients in a timely and safe way across our sites.

"We will continue to ensure that our services, including urology services, are able to see patients within the national target times, while ensuring that all our services continue to remain safe. We would urge anyone with any symptoms to contact their GP. We are seeing patients with new or suspected cancer quickly and will continue to treat those waiting for treatment."