Report to be presented to Tuesday’s Health Scrutiny meeting shows Devon NHS continuing to let down patients with cancer and those needing ‘elective’ surgery. Where is the urgency to improve patients’ experience, when they are faced with life-threatening and life-changing conditions?
A report to be discussed on Tuesday provides alarming evidence that the NHS in Devon is continuing to fail patients with serious conditions, both cancer patients and patients who require what is classified as ‘elective’ surgery. On both counts, Devon yet again scores worse than the national average.
It shouldn’t need emphasising that with cancer, delays cost lives. With many other conditions, delays cause needless weeks and months of additional pain and suffering, with serious impacts on patients and their families.
The Government’s long-term failure to fund the NHS is primarily responsible, and staff shortages – exacerbated by Brexit (which is driving away European doctors and nurses) -make the situation worse.
Yet it is difficult not to feel that Devon’s NHS leaders (in the Sustainability and Transformation Partnership) are complacent about these failings. Once more, damning figures are buried in the middle of a report whose main focus is the overall Winter experience in 2018-19.
Where is the urgency to improve patients’ experience of our NHS, when they faced with life-threatening and life-changing conditions? When will the Health Scrutiny committee call the NHS to account for these failings?
THIS IS WHAT THE REPORT SAYS:
Cancer – time to treatment ‘Performance against national cancer waiting times standards for first definitive treatment within 62 days for urgent referrals showed significant variation throughout the year, with performance at Devon level consistently failing to meet national targets.’
Over the year, the figure varied from 68.4 to 80.2 per cent, against a national target of 85 per cent.
Cancer – time to see specialist ‘The time taken for patients to see a specialist after urgent referral for a suspected cancer within 2 weeks of an urgent referral improved during Winter, with overall performance at Devon level reaching an in-year high-point of 89.5%, but still failing to meet the national target of 94% of patients being seen within 2 weeks of urgent referral.’
In fact, the figures show that March 2019 was the best month of the last year, during which the figure varied from 80 to 89.5%.
Referrals to treatment within 18 weeks ‘We continued to see a deterioration in the proportion of people being referred to treatment within 18 weeks, dropping to 80.5% by the end of the year.’
A patient tells me of waiting 11 months for hip replacements in @RDEhospitals – and it’s going to get worse this winter. The RD&E boasted of cutting ‘elective admissions’ by 5 per cent last year, but this is a shameful failing of the Trust and @NEWDevonCCG.
From a constituent: ‘I am writing to you with another example of the impact and stupidity of reducing beds in local community hospitals. I am presently on the waiting list for hip replacement surgery at the RD&E. This waiting list is currently 11 months, compared with the Government guidelines of 18 weeks.
‘During a follow-up phone call with the RD&E last week, I was told that winter health problems were already causing a shortage of beds and the knock-on effect will be further delays for people on waiting lists for serious surgery. Clearly, beds in community hospitals could have been used to help with winter health emergencies.’
Hip replacements are called ‘elective surgery’ and the RD&E Trust boasted earlier this year that it had reduced the number of these admissions by 5 per cent. As I pointed out to the Health Scrutiny Committee at the time, this might be something to be pleased about if lifestyle changes, etc., meant that people didn’t need so many operations – but the evidence is to the contrary. It has been achieved by lengthening waiting lists for patients who suffer pain and discomfort for months or even years on end.
The lack of priority for ‘elective’ admissions is one of the most shameful failings of the NHS in Devon, alongside the mounting delays in treatment for cancer. Both these problems are repeatedly brushed under the carpet by local NHS leaders.