We must make sure cancer patients have timely access to the treatment they need

Our senior business development manager, James Clark, who also looks after the LloydsPharmacy Healthcare Centre concept, says that out of hospital treatment options can reduce waiting times for cancer patients

For patients dealing with the news that they have cancer, being able to easily access the treatment they need should be the least of their concerns. That’s why it was alarming to read recently that the majority of oncology patients are having to wait longer than the targeted 62 days from their referral before receiving treatment. Even emergency cases are missing their deadlines.

The reality is that the NHS is struggling to cope with the increasing number of people requiring treatment and patients are the ones that are suffering. The system is being squeezed so tightly that last week the Public Accounts Committee presented a report to the House of Commons entitled: NHS waiting times for elective and cancer treatments.

This report highlights the failure of the NHS to meet waiting time targets which ultimately puts patients’ lives at risk. Worryingly, only 28 per cent of NHS trusts are regularly meeting their targets which signals that something has to change.

We can’t expect our prized national health service to cope with the added pressure and capacity challenges on its own. We need to rethink how we deliver cancer treatment and find ways to reduce the waiting time for patients.

The whole healthcare industry needs to work together to tackle this crisis for the sake of the general public. We are only as strong as our weakest parts, and if we’re not able to provide people with the treatment they need, when they need it, then something is fundamentally wrong.

Through our LloydsPharmacy Healthcare Centres initiative we’re already working with a number of Trusts to look at how we can provide oncology treatments outside of a traditional hospital setting. By using our national network of LloydsPharmacy stores and our team of expert clinical nurses and pharmacists we can offer patients an alternative way to get the care they need.

We’ve already seen the impact that this added choice can have on our patients lives. We are working in partnership with the North Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Trust to administer breast cancer treatments from our Healthcare Centre in Scunthorpe.

For patients, being able to choose where they receive treatment can give them an added sense of feeling in control. Our Healthcare Centres, like the one in Scunthorpe, are based in communities, which makes them easier to get to than hospital for most people and generally more convenient – right down to having somewhere to park.

I’d encourage any future reports or investigations by the Public Accounts Committee to consider how new models of care can help to alleviate some of the NHS pressures around cancer treatment.

It’s only by looking at new treatment environments that we can start to tackle the capacity challenges that are preventing our loved ones from being able to receive their treatment on time.