MORE than half of Oxfordshire’s health service targets are being missed, latest figures show.
Waiting time pledges made in the 2011 NHS Constitution, which sets out patients’ rights, are not being carried out. But managers charged with enforcing the total of 16 standards are choosing not to fine NHS authorities for long waits.
Latest figures show nine of the 16 standards are not being met, including waits for tests, A&E, cancer treatment and ambulances.
One of the largest gaps was that 85 per cent of cancer patients should receive first definitive treatment within 62 days after an urgent GP referral. This April 36 out of 143 patients were not seen within this specified period – 74.83 per cent – a missed target of 10 percentage points.
In 2010 Simon Lord was left waiting weeks for treatment for prostate cancer, despite Government guidelines saying patients should be treated within 62 days. On day 71, the father-of-three, of Downside, Cholsey, was offered treatment at the Churchill Hospital, but would need to wait another 30 days.
At that stage he opted for treatment at Guy’s Hospital, London, instead.
Speaking on the latest figures, Mr Lord, 55, said: “You wonder what they have been doing for the last four years.
“These are all problems that existed three-and-a-half years ago which have failed to be addressed.
“They have had plenty of time and have not been short of money but it has not been dealt with.”
Mr Lord, a team leader for Tesco, said it the failed targets were unfair on patients.
He said: “You feel like you’re on your own, I had to fight all of my own battles to get the treatment that I needed.
“Fortunately, I got it but you should not need to fight your own battles, and you should have the care you need regardless of your own ability to find it for yourself.
“There are people who do not have the time and resources and sheer-mindedness that I had, and they should not be worrying about this at that time in their lives.”
The former TA soldier added that there should be more emphasis placed on successful NHS services sharing best practice with struggling ones.
He added: “There appears to be very little learning going on from the hospitals that are doing well to those that are not.”
Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (OCCG), which decides where NHS cash is spent, can levy fines against those it has contracts with if waiting times are not met. The OCCG – spending £635.7m this year – has asked for a further £7m for extra operations and services to meet waiting times, especially in A&E.
Yet OCCG interim deputy director of delivery and localities Diane Hedges said: “It is the CCG view that fines for missed targets are not always the most effective way of driving change.
“The performance challenges are subject to our conditions in contract and subject to regular review.
“Given the complex nature of the causes of these presenting challenges, we are preferring to work in partnership to develop plans to improve quality of care and patient experience.”
She added: “There have been some areas where we have not reached those targets in Oxfordshire. This is largely a reflection of pressures which have seen similar activity rises and challenges to targets around the country.”
It comes after authorities owed money, such as Oxford Hospitals NHS Trust, wrote off OCCG’s ‘debts’, meaning it ended 2013/14 with a £300,000 surplus.
The trust – which runs Oxford’s John Radcliffe and Churchill hospitals and the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre – said rising demand was hitting waiting times.
A hospital trust spokesman said: “Our teams prioritise the provision of safe, effective, dignified care for patients. We want all of our patients to be referred and treated as quickly as possible and we are working hard to improve our performance, taking significant steps to address an increase in demand.”
He said seven-day radiotherapy and GPs ensuring cancer patients are aware the disease is suspected so they attend hospital appointments are among actions being taken.
Of A&E, he said: “We have made changes to address increased demand, including environmental improvements, recruitment of additional senior clinical staff, opening of additional capacity and improved access to tests such as CT scans.”
South Central Ambulance Service spokesman Michelle Archer said demand for the most serious calls rose 24 per cent from April 1 to May 15 compared with the same period last year.
She warned of “significant pressure on performance delivery, particularly coping with very difficult conditions resulting from flooding last year”.
But Rachel Coney, chief executive of Healthwatch Oxfordshire, said: “It is clearly unacceptable that the Oxfordshire healthcare system is not delivering on the pledges made to the public in the NHS Constitution.”
Oxford East Labour MP Andrew Smith said: “It’s not just the performance numbers here which matter, but the reality of patient experience which they highlight.
“It’s clear from the number of these targets being missed that they are presenting a really serious challenge to local health services.”
He praised the “hard work” of NHS staff but said they faced “underlying problems” like finding enough care in the community.
He said: “I think there is also an increasing financial problem, which means we will need more resources if patients are to get the best standards of care in future.”
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