DHBs not meeting cancer targets

DHBs not meeting cancer targets

Ministry of Health figures show health boards are way off achieving the Fast Cancer Treatment target.

Eighteen months after the Government set a new goal for faster treatment times, not a single DHB has been able to attain it.

The target requires 85 percent of patients to receive their first cancer treatment within 62 days of being referred with a high suspicion of cancer.

DHBs had until today to meet the target, but Ministry of Health figures show they're are way off - averaging just 75 percent in the last quarter with no chance of making it to 85 percent in quarter four.

But the Ministry of Health insists DHBs are making good progress.

"I don't think this is a fail, this is a systems improvement measurement.  The DHBs, we started baseline, we've got a target we're heading to, it's challenging but the DHBs are committed and we're moving in that direction," says Dr Andrew Simpson, the National Clinical Director in charge of the programme.

The 62 day target is based on an international benchmark, allowing time for doctors to complete tests and investigations, and Dr Simpson says it can be quite tight to achieve.

"It's not a 'thou shalt achieve it by 62 days', it's really how do we have a measure to which we can measure ourselves against to look at systems improvement."

DHBs not meeting cancer targets


Capital and Coast DHB has consistently been the strongest performer, nearly on target at 82 percent in the last quarter.

Hutt Valley and Auckland DHBs are the biggest improvers since reporting of the target began 18 months ago.

While Lakes DHB features well below par, at just 47 percent in the last quarter.

Lakes DHB clinical lead Denise Aitken admits they've been struggling.

"We're as distressed about that as anybody else.  We're working very hard to improve it.

"The target is absolutely achievable, it's not going to be achievable tomorrow though," says Dr Aitken.

"But in achieving that target we're going to make a whole lot of improvements in care for patients."

The Midland Cancer Network is partnering with Lakes DHB to improve services.  Manager Jan Smith says they have low numbers which can lead to big fluctuations in percentages and patients shouldn't worry.

"Lakes are currently at 60 percent for quarter four, which is some improvement but we've got quite a way to go."

The Faster Cancer Treatment target increases to 90 percent by June 2017.