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Directives to focus on waiting times for cancer treatment are putting hospital staff under “excessive pressure”, according to 12 of Scotland’s top specialists.
The medics have told the Scottish Government, having to submit weekly waiting time progress reports is adversely affecting the vital work of auditing patient treatment.
The dozen lead clinicians in the West of Scotland Managed Clinical Networks for Adult Cancers have warned that the 62-day target for cancer treatment does not reflect the various ways different cancers need to be approached.
The claims are featured in an editorial in the latest edition of the Scottish Medical Journal.
According to the editorial: “The term ‘cancer’ covers a wide range of conditions with variable presentations, variable rates of biological progression and varying complexities of diagnosis and treatment.
“There are those which may progress to patient detriment within this 62-day target and those that will not. For patients with squamous carcinoma of lung and a potential doubling time of less than two weeks, a 62-day target is clearly inappropriate.”
The clinicians concede that there is “much to celebrate” in the form of the service developments that have stemmed from the waiting times initiative, and praise improvements in staffing, imaging facilities, diagnostic services and equipment.
But on waiting times, the article states: “The initiative however does not provide the most appropriate measure of cancer care and has serious flaws, particularly in the damage it has done to clinical audit of treatment and outcome. The pressures now, on audit staff, are excessive.”
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