The boss of Harrogate District Hospital says improving its record in delivering timely cancer treatment is being made more difficult due to doctors going on strike.
Jonathan Coulter, chief executive of Harrogate & District NHS Foundation Trust, made the comments in papers published ahead of the organisation’s board meeting in Harrogate yesterday.
Mr Coulter admitted the hospital was facing challenges in delivering the “standard that we would want to” but added that several waves of industrial action have taken their toll.
Across England and Wales more than one million treatments and appointments have been cancelled due to the strikes with waits for cancer treatment being particularly affected.
NHS England says a patient should start treatment within 31 days of an urgent cancer diagnosis and referral by a GP.
Statistics published by the hospital reveal 9 in 10 patients are receiving treatment within this target.
However, after 62 days since a referral, only 7 in 10 patients have begun treatment.
Mr Coulter added:
“It is fair to say that this is the area that has been most significantly impacted upon by the industrial action, with clinics cancelled, but if we assume that there will be no further service interruptions due to strikes, then we have plans in place to deliver the overall Faster Diagnosis Standard expected by the end of the year.”
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Both consultants and junior doctors took part in industrial action at the hospital in the first week of October.
The BBC reported this week that a fresh pay offer has been made to NHS consultants which could end future strike action.
The government is also in negotiation with junior doctors although a deal has not yet been agreed.
Mr Coulter added:
“We need to always remember the impact that this industrial action is having and the cost to patients who have services disrupted and delayed, the actual financial cost of cover, and the more significant opportunity cost, as management time is necessarily taken up with planning and managing these periods of strike action safely. We know in particular that this has had an impact on our cancer pathways as clinics have been cancelled.
“And at a time when the NHS is being criticised in some quarters for poor productivity, we know that staff morale and goodwill – so important in the delivery of safe, productive services – is not helped by this ongoing dispute.”