Tumour standards offer level of care check

New tumour treatment standards let patients check whether their care matches the timeline set for New Zealand public hospitals, Southern Cancer Network director Dr Shaun Costello says.

The 10 standards cover common cancer types, including bowel, breast, and melanoma.

They include minimum wait times for procedures, and the order in which each step should occur.

''What this means is a patient can look at these standards and know that this is the level of care they should receive in whichever public hospital they go to.''

They would be used to audit district health boards to determine which met minimum standards.

''We just don't know at the moment, because there's never been anything to benchmark it against. Nobody has ever sat down in New Zealand and said: 'this is the bottom line'.''

The standards improved patient safety because ''one of the things it does is makes sure that everything happens in the right order''.

Cancer patients often had to see a host of different doctors and specialties, a potentially complicated and confusing process. Dr Costello, clinical leader of radiation oncology at Dunedin Hospital, was one of a large group of clinicians who developed the standards.

''I find it enormously rewarding that we managed to get such a large number of clinicians to come together to focus on a single issue.

''I'm looking forward to benchmarking against it so that we can see where we are, and where we need to improve.''

Health Minister Tony Ryall said the standards were based on the successful lung cancer standards developed in 2011.

''District health boards will compare the services they currently provide with those set out in the standards, to identify where they can make improvements and provide cancer patients with better care,'' Mr Ryall said.

The standards can be viewed at: www.health.govt.nz

- eileen.goodwin@odt.co.nz

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