Welsh Cancer Standards

By Richard Lewis at May 10th, 2010

The Western Mail today reports on Wales falling short on meeting national cancer standards.

Health professionals throughout Wales are committed to providing the best possible services to patients, and welcome the Welsh Assembly Governments ambition to achieve 100 per cent compliance across this set of standards – unfortunately the reality falls woefully short of the ambition as this report highlights.

While acknowledging that much work has been done, this report highlights how much more there is to do.

Additional resources will be required to meet these standards – and even in these tight financial times, cancer services will remain a priority to doctors and patients in Wales.

The report highlights a shortage of specialists throughout multidisciplinary clinical teams. BMA Cymru have warned the Welsh Assembly Government repeatedly over the shortage of doctors in Wales, and this data adds wait to our argument.

The high level of middle grade and junior doctor vacancies means that consultants are left picking up the pieces where there are gaps in rotas.

This is compromising consultants’ ability to deliver routine daily work, and there is no evidence that hospitals are adjusting services to take these shortfalls into account.

While BMA Cymru has been working with WAG and employing Local Health Boards around doctor shortages – many of our suggestions on how to address the current crisis we are facing have yet to be taken up.

Without doubt, the rates of work being undertaken cannot be sustained with the current levels of staffing.

The Welsh Assembly Government must ensure that training programmes are in place to provide future specialists.

Although the waiting times for radiotherapy have not improved, it is pleasing that the WAG identified the need for more resources in this area to ensure improvements were made. The recent investment into extended working hours and a national procurement programme for linear accelerators is to be welcomed.

The WAG must now ensure that sufficient resources are available in other areas to enable workers to implement recommendations.

Doctors are eager to drive forward efforts to improve the care cancer patients receive and are usually at the forefront of leading improvements and new initiatives; but sustainable solutions are needed to address the problems raised in this report if NHS Wales is to deliver and maintain the quality and capacity of cancer services that the people of Wales deserve.

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