Cancer patients at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust (MTW) are now receiving some of the fastest access to treatment in England after the Trust hit the national standard for treating patients within 62 days for twelve months in a row.

Latest Trust data from July 2020 demonstrates that at least 85% of all patients referred by a GP for suspected cancer were treated promptly and within the required timeframe. This is a huge turnaround in performance for MTW, who until August 2019 had not hit the target for five years and was the worst performing trust.

MTW is now one of only four trusts in the country to meet this standard. The Trust has also met the two week wait referral target for eleven consecutive months – meaning even more patients are being seen within 14 days of being referred by their GP.

Since last year, 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 and upskilling more nurses to be able to deliver chemotherapy treatment.

MTW has also improved diagnostic equipment and facilities; introduced new treatment pathways; and implemented 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.

Miles Scott, Trust Chief Executive, said: “Hitting targets consistently is a fantastic achievement for the Trust, but most importantly it means we are seeing and treating many more of our patients quicker, ensuring people who have been diagnosed with cancer get timely access to the treatment and care they need.

“Our cancer services team has overhauled our approach, with a huge focus on putting the patient first. They’ve implemented a range of patient-centred and effective improvements that have enabled us to make high quality and sustainable changes to the way we deliver care and treatment.

“The turnaround in our cancer performance over the last year has been remarkable and I want to thank each and every one of our incredible staff for their amazing efforts – even sustaining the outstanding care they deliver throughout the Coronavirus pandemic.

“As a Trust, we’ll now be looking to build on this work so our patients can continue to access world-leading, high quality cancer care and treatment.”

Mrs Ritchie Chalmers, Consultant Surgeon and Cancer Clinical Director added: “We are very proud of our progress in the last couple of years – in September 2018, we treated 58% of patients within 62 days, so to now be consistently achieving over 85% every month is a testament to the dedication and sheer hard work of our multidisciplinary teams. The commitment from everybody  – fantastic clinicians, outstanding administrative support teams, and supportive senior management –  is dedicated to delivering the best possible care to our patients”

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 county.