New measure for cancer services in Wales hailed as ‘UK first’

Author: Caroline White
New measure for cancer services in Wales hailed as ‘UK first’

A new indicator for cancer services in Wales, hailed as a “UK first”, will measure the waiting time from when the disease is first suspected rather than when the referral is received in hospital, the Welsh government has announced.

The new measure, which has been designed and developed by clinicians and is backed by cancer charities, aims to speed up diagnosis and ensure people with cancer are treated more quickly.

It is the first step in a programme to improve the timeliness, consistency, and quality of cancer care in Wales.

It will eventually replace the two existing cancer waiting times, which are based on how a person’s cancer is identified, and puts people on either a 31-day or a 62-day pathway ─ an approach that has been used throughout the UK for many years.

All patients are now being measured against a 62-day pathway, which starts when their cancer is first suspected.

The first set of statistics for the new measure, published yesterday, show that three out of four (74.4%) people were treated within 62 days of when they were first suspected of having cancer.

The Welsh government has stumped up an extra £3 million annually to help health boards in Wales implement the new measure. The new money will be targeted towards improving the diagnostic element of the pathway, so that people can more quickly have cancer ruled out or get a diagnosis and move on to treatment.

Health minister, Vaughan Gething, said: “Cancer is the single biggest cause of premature death in Wales and the UK. It’s highly likely cancer will touch everyone’s lives at some point.

“Wales is leading the way in the UK by adopting the new Single Cancer Pathway, which has broad support from clinicians and charities.”

Richard Pugh, head of services (Wales) for Macmillan Cancer Support, described the move as “brave.”

He added: “We believe this more transparent approach will highlight where there are delays and what’s caused them, to drive improvement to ensure every person diagnosed with cancer in Wales has timely treatment which meets their needs.”

Earlier this week, health minister Vaughan Gething confirmed that work was under way to develop an evidence based National Clinical Plan for specialist services in Wales, in line with the commitment set out in A Healthier Wales, published in June last year.

A Healthier Wales is the Welsh government's long-term plan for health and social care services in Wales.

The Plan will set out how clinicians will be expected to base their clinical work on nationally agreed pathways, working across whole systems, considering prevention and population health, as well as secondary and tertiary care.

Pathways will be published online to help citizens and carers to better manage their own health and wellbeing.

The approach will be underpinned by clinical leaders working collaboratively in multidisciplinary networks of professionals, agencies, and third sector organisations to deliver the pathways at national and local levels.

Pathways will be designed and delivered in line with the key principles of A Healthier Wales: prudent healthcare, value-based healthcare, and quality improvement, at scale and co-produced with patients.