In response to concerns he raised recently, Kenneth Gibson MSP has received assurances from NHS Ayrshire & Arran (NHSAA) regarding the steps it is taking to improve performance in the waiting times for patients who require follow up from a bowel screening test and the recording of colorectal cancer stages.
The Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) has been successful in detecting adenoma and pre-cancerous polyps, meaning treatment can be started at a very early stage. However, figures showed that 46.8% of NHSAA patients are waiting more than eight weeks for their colonoscopy after referral against an average of 27.8% across Scotland – the highest percentage across all Scottish health boards.
Shona McCulloch, Head of Corporate Governance at NHSAA, provided reassurances that while capacity in Ayrshire continues to be a challenge, it has locally implemented several pieces of work to get waiting times down to an acceptable level. She stated:
“Screening colonoscopy requires a thorough pre-assessment, as the patient is not seen by a GP prior to referral. This is currently carried out by a specialist Nurse Endoscopist to ensure safety, so that we know patients are clinically fit and able to cope with both the pre-colonoscopy preparation and with the procedure itself, as well as understanding the risks of the procedure.
“We are now training experienced staff nurses in the Endoscopy Unit to carry out the assessments, with the aim to shorten the waiting time for this first part of the pathway. Work is underway to increase capacity at both University Hospital Ayr and University Hospital Crosshouse, with additional consultant sessions taking place whenever possible.
“In addition there is regional work ongoing with a short life working group for colorectal and prostate pathways set up by the West of Scotland Cancer Network, as the challenges appear to be very similar across the region. This group is looking at all boards’ pathways, with a view to safely standardising the processes for both symptomatic and screening colorectal referrals, reducing the current long waits and reducing patient anxiety. This group is predominantly looking at all the diagnostic pathway from referral to confirmation of a cancer as this is the most challenging part.”
Mr Gibson had also expressed concerns at figures indicating that only 90.6% of NHSAA patients have the stage of their colorectal cancer recorded as opposed to 100% under other health boards.
Assurances were given that in reality, 100% of NHSAA colorectal cancer patients are having their stage recorded. The 90.8% figure can be attributed to a change in recording systems in January 2018 from Dukes classification to TNM8.
Kenneth Gibson MSP commented:
“I welcome these reassurances from NHSAA, as it clearly sets out that significant efforts are being made to improve colonoscopy waiting times through a variety of measures.
“It is also good to know for sure that every single colorectal cancer patient under treatment at NHSAA is having their stage recorded, allowing for the most appropriate and helpful treatment plan for each and every patient.”
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