Health chiefs have apologised to hundreds of women who were made to wait more than two weeks for urgent breast cancer referrals at the Royal Derby Hospital.
For three consecutive months of this year, the hospital had only managed to see 20 per cent of women given urgent GP referrals for suspected breast cancer within 14 days.
This was in large part due to the “unprecedented” increase in cancer referrals to the hospital which have shot up by 30 per cent for both of the past two years.
Hospital chiefs say staff had been working as hard as possible but that the demand was too steep.
They have now apologised to the hundreds of patients who had to wait longer than 14 days – but insist the waiting list was now back to where it should be.
Dr Magnus Harrison, executive medical director at the University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust (UHDB), said: “This year, there has been a significant national increase in the number of referrals for either suspected breast cancer or those with breast symptoms where cancer isn’t initially suspected.
“We would like to apologise to those patients who had to wait longer than 14 days to be seen earlier this summer.
“We understand that the wait between a GP referral and an assessment and diagnostic tests can be a very worrying time.
“We have introduced a number of initiatives to manage this increase in demand, including providing extra outpatient clinics at our breast units at Royal Derby Hospital and Queen’s Hospital Burton.
“This has been successful and as a result of the dedication of our clinical teams, we are now able to offer patients an appointment at either of our breast clinics in less than two weeks.”
The hospital said that of the people given cancer referrals from GPs, 7.4 per cent lead to a cancer diagnosis.
UHDB says that in July there were 726 referrals – which could equate to nearly 54 women finding out that they have cancer.
In a meeting of the UHDB trust board this week, Sharon Martin, the trust’s executive chief operating officer, said: “Staff are working has hard as they can to keep up with the pace but we just couldn’t meet the demand
“We have had patients waiting longer than we would want them to.”
Last week, cancer charities said that the trust’s sub-20 per cent figures for April through June were “extremely concerning” and “unacceptable”.
They said that an early diagnosis “can be the difference between life and death” and that the workforce shortage is a “large contributor” influencing how early or late a patient is diagnosed.
Earlier this month, UHDB papers had revealed that In June alone, 449 patients were referred to UHDB for breast cancer appointments – but 361 were not seen within two weeks.
Alongside this, 198 patients were referred for urgent breast symptom issues – issues other than breast cancer – but 160 were not seen within two weeks.
In total, across the patients referred in April through June, 75 per cent of women with suspected cancer were seen within two weeks.