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South East’s diagnostic units struggling with demand for life-saving bowel cancer tests

These tests detect bowel cancer, the UK’s second biggest cancer killer, early when it is easier to treat and patients have a greater chance of survival.

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Over 20 hospitals in the South East of England are in breach of a waiting time target for life-saving tests that could diagnose bowel cancer. Under NHS rules patients should wait no more than six weeks, but in one hospital in the region 25% per cent of patients are waiting beyond this time.  

Patients should wait no more than six weeks for a colonoscopy test that can detect bowel cancer early when it is easier to treat. Referrals may be from a variety of sources. Approximately over half of patients (55%) are diagnosed with bowel cancer via a GP referral, a quarter are diagnosed in an emergency such as patients going to A&E, and 10% are diagnosed through screening.

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The waiting times published by NHS England on Thursday 11 October is further evidence that demand for diagnostic tests are outstripping capacity. Many hospitals are at breaking point because they simply do not have the capacity to meet the growing demand for these services. A lack of funding, limited resources and a shortage of staff to carry out the number of procedures needed are contributing to this.

To reduce the number of patients waiting longer than the NHS target for these vital tests, Bowel Cancer UK’s ‘End the Capacity Crisis’ campaign is calling on the government to invest in more NHS staff to work in bowel cancer units in North of England, Yorkshire and the Humber hospitals.

The two key tests to diagnose bowel cancer are colonoscopy and flexible sigmoidoscopy – a camera on a thin, flexible cable inserted through the anus to look at different parts of the bowel.  These tests are known as endoscopy procedures and can detect cancer at the earliest stage of the disease, when it is more treatable, and even prevent cancer through the removal of pre-cancerous growths (polyps).

The three hospitals with some of the highest percentage of patients waiting more than six weeks for colonoscopy appointments in August 2018 are: Brighton and Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust (25%), University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust (17%) and Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (9%).

The three hospitals with some of the highest percentage of patients waiting more than six weeks for flexible sigmoidoscopy appointments are: Brighton and Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust (33%), University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust (9%) and Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust (5%).

Ahead of the Government spending review in November, Bowel Cancer UK is calling on Chancellor of the Exchequer, The Rt Hon Philip Hammond, and the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, The Rt Hon Matt Hancock, to work together to develop a fully funded action plan to tackle NHS staff shortages in diagnostic services for bowel cancer and end the capacity crisis. Thousands of people, including patients, NHS staff, leading professional bodies and Members of Parliament, have backed the charity’s call by signing a letter to Government.

Asha Kaur, Head of Policy & Campaigns at Bowel Cancer UK, says:

“These waiting time figures present a worrying picture for patients and demonstrate the urgent need for the Government to make addressing this capacity crisis a national priority. If hospitals are expected to meet waiting time targets then they must be given the resources and capacity to enable them to meet these standards.”

Health & Wellbeing

K2 Crawley launches new management partner with Olympic and Paralympic medallists

Olympic medallist Colin Jackson CBE and Paralympic Champion Katie-George Dunlevy were on hand to help launch the new partnership between Everyone Active and Crawley Borough Council.

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The 14 November marked the start of the 10-year relationship which will see the award-winning leisure operator take over the management of K2 Crawley, the Bewbush Centre and Broadfield 3G Pitch and Pavilion.

Jackson hosted the day and shared his experiences of working as an Everyone Active Sporting Champions ambassador while Dunlevy shared details of her training at the centres in Crawley and winning Paralympic gold in Rio.

Jackson then set a series of gym challenges before cheering on pupils from Thomas Bennett Community College trying to beat the times set by the Olympian.

World record holder, Jackson, said:

“I was thrilled to be at the launch of the new partnership between Everyone Active and Crawley Borough Council. It was a great day. I can’t wait to see the partnership progress in the future.”

Paralympic Champion, Dunlevy, said:

“The day went really well. I know that everyone is very positive about the relationship and the future. I know that everyone is really excited to get started.”

Stuart Mills, Everyone Active area contract manager, said:

“This is a very exciting time for sports and leisure in the borough. The Council has already invested in improving centres to ensure people have access to state-of-the-art facilities, and we’re proud to have been chosen to deliver these across the community.

“We are very much looking forward to working with Crawley Borough Council and helping them achieve their goal of providing a top quality service while building healthier communities by encouraging more people to get active.”

Councillor Chris Mullins, Cabinet member for Wellbeing at Crawley Borough Council, said:

“This is an exciting new chapter in the history of K2 Crawley, the Bewbush Centre and Broadfield 3G Pitch and Pavilion.

“Our partnership with Everyone Active will provide leisure users with a quality service and inspire more and more people to get involved in physical activities.”

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