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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

Local NHS urging locals to get jab as flu rates shoot up 85%

The local NHS is urging people to get their flu jab and highlighting treatment advice, after flu cases shot up by 85 per cent within the space of a week in England.

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Health bosses warn this winter’s influenza outbreak is now beginning to take hold and urging those eligible to get their flu jab now – GP consultation rate in the South East for flu like illnesses has risen from 10.3 per 100,000 to 14.2 in just one week, which is adding more pressure on local health services.

Flu symptoms come on very quickly and can be a very unpleasant illness with symptoms including fever, stuffy nose dry cough, sore throat, aching muscles and joints and extreme tiredness, which can often last several days.

Flu can’t be treated with antibiotics – flu is caused by viruses and antibiotics only work against bacteria.

Those who get the flu will get better more quickly if they:

  • Get plenty of rest and sleep
  • Make sure they keep warm
  • Take paracetamol or ibuprofen
  • Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration

Gareth Howells, Deputy Director of Urgent Care and Systems Resilience for Central Sussex and East Surrey Commissioning Alliance-North, said

The best form of protection against flu is to get the vaccine, and to practice good respiratory and hand hygiene. It isn’t too late to get the flu vaccine so make sure you take up the offer if you’re eligible, to protect yourself and vulnerable people around you.

“We are advising those who already have flu-like symptoms to rest, drink plenty of water and take paracetamol where needed.”

In order to reduce the impact of flu on local NHS services, residents and visitors to the city are being asked to make sure they use the right service for their medical needs, freeing up emergency care for those most in need.

The NHS Minor Injuries Unit Queen Victoria Hospital and Horsham Hospital are available for treatment without appointments; the Urgent Treatment Centre at Crawley Hospital is also available 24 hours a day, NHS 111 is available all day every day and www.nhs.uk is available to check symptoms online around the clock.

A pharmacist can also help with flu, offering treatment advice and recommend flu remedies, and give guidance on giving medicines to children. No appointment necessary to see a local pharmacist and most have private consultation areas, and will say if you need further medical attention. fffffffffffff

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