Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust (MTW) has turned its cancer performance around and hit the national standard for treating patients within 62 days – the first time in nearly five years.

Latest Trust data from August 2019 shows that MTW treated the required 85%* of its cancer patients within the timeframe. This means the number of patients waiting for cancer treatment has been significantly reduced, putting MTW in the top 30% of trusts nationally.

Miles Scott, Trust Chief Executive, said: “It’s been our priority to get our cancer waiting times back on track, so I’m delighted that we’ve achieved what we set out to do – and earlier than we anticipated too.

“This means we are now seeing and treating more of our patients quicker, ensuring people who have been diagnosed with cancer get access to the treatment and care they need. We know from what our patients tell us that timeliness of treatment is really important to them and this is important to us too. Delivering the standard means we’re meeting what our patients want.

“Our staff have worked really hard to turn our performance around in a sustainable way and I want to thank each of them for their incredible efforts in helping us make these improvements. Our achievements are particularly noteworthy as we’ve seen a significant increase in suspected cancer referrals in the past two years.

“Our ambition now is to continue with this hard work, build on the great actions we’ve put in place that are delivering results and become an outstanding cancer centre, where patients can access world-leading, high quality cancer care and treatment.”

In September 2018 MTW was treating just 58% of patients within 62 days. Since then, the Trust has introduced a raft of changes to improve its cancer waiting times and respond to the rise in demand, including investing in more staff, diagnostic equipment and facilities; introducing new treatment pathways; and implementing innovative best practice to streamline systems and processes.

Some of the key quality improvements that have made the most impact on speeding up patients’ access to treatment include introducing ‘straight to test’, where a patient referred is initially assessed by a specialist cancer nurse over the telephone to determine the best and most suitable test for their symptoms, rather than waiting to have an face-to-face outpatient appointment – this results in an earlier diagnosis; and increasing radiology capacity by moving to seven day working, enabling us to diagnose and treat more of our patients quickly.

In line with national trends, MTW has also seen an increase in suspected cancer referrals – up by 31% in January – August 2019 compared with January – August 2017.

Chief of Service for Cancer Services, Dr Henry Taylor, added: “This achievement is a result of a huge effort from all clinical staff working alongside a dedicated administrative team to provide the best possible care for our patients throughout their cancer journey. Our progress has been outstanding, but we remain committed to further improvement to ensure we deliver the best for our patients.

“We should never forget that whilst time to treatment is an important measure of how well our services are performing, MTW has always maintained its excellent track record in patient experience and outcomes from treatment.

“We provide some of the most advanced cancer care in the country, from offering patients the opportunity to get involved with ground-breaking clinical trials to highly technical radiotherapy techniques. We have worked hard to improve our service further by establishing innovative and modern pathways to ensure our patients get access to the first-class treatment they need.”

MTW is the fifth largest cancer centre in the country and provides specialist cancer services to around 1.8m people across Kent, Medway and East Sussex. The Trust treats people from two sites based at Maidstone Hospital and Kent and Canterbury Hospital, and also runs outpatient clinics across multiple locations in the region.

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Notes to editor

*Figure awaiting final validation – August data currently indicates we treated 85% of patients within 62 days.