Breast cancer patient waits in Wales 'shocking'

A woman having a mammogram Image copyright Getty Images

There are concerns thousands of people suspected of having breast cancer are waiting too long for their first hospital appointment.

A Freedom of Information request by the Liberal Democrats showed since 2013, 11,000 people waited more than 10 days for an appointment with a specialist.

Party leader Kirsty Williams called the situation "shocking and disappointing".

A Welsh Government spokesman said more people were surviving the disease, despite an increase in diagnoses.

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Media captionAndrea Evans says her wait for breast cancer results was 'like an eternity'

The target is 95% of patients initially suspected of having cancer should start definitive treatment within 62 days of diagnosis.

In June 2013, Health Minister Mark Drakeford said the "real key" to reaching this level was to make sure patients got their first hospital appointment within 10 days of referral.

The Welsh Government said more than 22,000 people were referred by their GP with suspected breast cancer between October 2013 and September 2015 - 2,249 were diagnosed and 92.3% of these started definitive treatment within 62 days.

Waiting times

  • Aneurin Bevan health board had the highest average wait for referral to a cancer specialist, at 24 days, and more than 70% of its breast cancer referrals were not seen within 10 days
  • Cwm Taf health board had the lowest - 8.3 days - with just over 20% of its breast cancer patients not seen within 10 days
  • Abertawe Bro Morgannwg health board had an 11-day average wait with more than 70% of patients waiting longer than 10 days
  • Hywel Dda health board's average wait for patients was nine days and just under 65% of patients were not seen within 10 days

Betsi Cadwaladr and Cardiff and Vale health boards did not provide details but Betsi Cadwaladr said the average wait for an appointment with a cancer specialist at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd and Ysbyty Gwynedd was 21 days.

Powys Teaching health board refers its patients to hospitals in neighbouring health boards.

The latest figures for the three months to December show 83.7% of cancer patients started treatment within 62 days.

Ms Williams said: "It's absolutely desperate for individuals who spend that time worrying about their health and future. But it also shows us we have a systematic problem in how we can ensure we have enough capacity within cancer services to see people within a timely fashion."

A Welsh Government spokesman said: "For many women referred to hospital with suspected breast cancer, a one-stop diagnostic clinic takes place at the same time as their first outpatient appointment, which enables them to start treatment immediately."

An Aneurin Bevan health board spokesman said: "Our current waiting times from referral to being seen in clinic have reduced over the last three months to 19 days and every patient with a suspected malignancy is being seen and treated within 62 days, which is the Welsh Government target for cancer treatment."

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