York sees highest number of urgent cancer referrals since records began
The highest number of people are being referred for fast track cancer appointments in York and Scarborough since records began.
Health leaders say it is a “good thing” that patients are going to the doctor when they have potential cancer symptoms.
But that high levels of demand across all areas is placing “significant strain” on health services.
Simon Morritt, chief executive of York and Scarborough Hospital Trust, said: “If we look at March and April this year, we had the highest number of fast track cancer referrals since we started recording. Probably for a decade or so. That is the scale of demand and pressure that we are experiencing.
“That’s not a bad thing, it’s a good thing that patients are presenting to general practice, but it clearly places a significant strain on our ability to be able to maintain our performance levels.”
The hospital trust is prioritising the most urgent conditions as part of its pandemic recovery plans and the latest figures for May 2021 show it is above target for seeing fast track cancer patients within 14 days of referral.
The data shows that for a third of patients who were not seen within that time, it was the patient’s decision and the hospital fears the reason for some could be down to patients’ worries about Covid.
Worries about Covid
GP Dr Nigel Wells said his personal experience was that more young people have been showing symptoms of cancer.
Dr Wells, who is clinical chairman of Vale of York Clinical Commissioning group, told a York health meeting: “My personal experience in practice is that we are seeing earlier and younger people coming through with cancer.
“I don’t think they’re delayed presentations, I don’t think they’re people that have not come forward.
“When I talk to colleagues they say that as well. Is that representative? I don’t know.”
York and Scarborough Hospitals are making progress on plans to tackle the backlog of care.
The number of patients waiting 62 days or more for initial cancer treatment is now below 2019 levels, despite the trust seeing a higher number of referrals each month.
Mr Morritt said the number of patients waiting a year or more for any type of treatment had reached a peak of 2,500 in February 2021, adding: “I’ll say that again because it’s a very big number, 2,500 52 week waiters in the system.”
By the end of June, that number had reduced to 1,488.
The hospital has also reopened two more operating theatres, which means planned orthopaedic surgeries can be resumed.