Patient handling set for big change

Chris Jackson.
Chris Jackson.
Management of South Island bowel cancer patients is set to change ''fundamentally'' next year in an ambitious bid to eliminate excessive wait times, Dunedin oncologist Dr Chris Jackson says.

Dr Jackson, also chairman of the South Island bowel cancer working group, said a report released yesterday revealing South Island waiting times made a compelling case for a shake-up.

''We are using 1990s systems with 2012 treatments."

More than 50% of southern patients waited more than 62 days for colon cancer treatment in what was a national rather than a South Island or southern problem, Dr Jackson said. The problem was more pronounced for rectal cancer, for which nearly 80% of southern patients waited more than 62 days for treatment.

The aim was to reduce all waiting times to within 62 days.

''This is going to be a major shift in the way we do things."

Although data used in the Southern Cancer Network South Island Regional Bowel Cancer Patient Mapping Report was about four years old, little had changed in the intervening time, he said.

''If you look at the data, it is so compelling that if they don't change, we will continue to short-change our patients in a way which is not tolerable."

''Small waits at multiple steps'' added up to lengthy delays that could be removed by mapping the patient's journey at the first opportunity.

''When you first meet the patient, you should be able to map out what's going to happen to them over the next 28 days."

This might mean booking procedures that turned out to be unnecessary, but those spots could be used for other patients. It meant pre-booking procedures slots based on average weekly bowel cancer diagnoses.

''I think that everybody has seen that what we're doing is not good enough today, and that we have to change."

Doctors were leading the project, which would need to be signed off by district health boards. It was designed to be low-cost.

''It will take principally administrative and nursing resource in order to turn these figures on their head."

The project was a national first, and could be a model for other cancers.

Implementation was scheduled for around the middle of next year.

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