‘Disastrous’ waiting times for cancer patients across Horsham and Mid Sussex have worried health experts.
A number of residents suffering from the life-threatening disease are having to wait more than the recommended maximum 62 days - two months - from urgent GP referral to first definitive treatment.
The NHS target for this area is for 85 per cent of cancer patients to be seen within this time frame.
But in the first six months of this year the cancer target failed to meet required levels.
Concerned health experts from the governing body of the Horsham and Mid Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) discussed the figures during a meeting earlier this month.
Speaking of the report, CCG lead GP and chair of the governing body, Dr Minesh Patel said: “It is small in numbers but disastrous for people who experience them.”
During the first quarter of this year more than 20 per cent of cancer patients across the districts had to wait longer than two months to receive treatment.
He said there are a number of reasons for this and highlighted one explanation as patients preferring treatment elsewhere.
The doctor continued: “I know there are patients choosing to go out of the area but be that as it may we shouldn’t put people in a situation where they have an excessive wait.
“We need to make them aware of the issues before they make their decisions. We should be informing our patients about some of the risks they’re taking.”
Dr Karen Eastman, clinical director and GP at Burgess Hill, expressed concern and asked what is being done to curb the waits.
“I am worried about cancer wait reaching 62 days,” she said during the meeting.
Jayne Marklew, head of system performance, said the CCG is working with trusts to identify the obstacles.
Research into geographical area and cancer type will also be undertaken to see if there is any link to long waits for patients.
Putting context behind figures obtained for the report, the CCG explained: “Due to the small numbers when reviewing performance at a CCG level, it is extremely easy to swing between achievement and non-achievement of targets.
“Every breach is reviewed by the cancer leads at both the CCG and relevant provider to see if the delay was avoidable.
“In the majority of instances , breaches occur due to case complexity or patient choice. Emerging trends and patterns are discussed and changes made accordingly.”
It adds Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust (SASH) has altered the pathway in terms of order of consultation and diagnostics and this has also reduced the level of delay.