A CANCER patient has called the hospital trust’s treatment waiting times “abysmal” after he was told he would be waiting three months for a crucial biopsy examination.

Following a routine PSA test, Art Lavelle was told he likely had prostate cancer but would be waiting months on the NHS for tests before he could begin lifesaving treatment.

Instead, he paid £1,700 and was seen privately within 10 days and got a full diagnosis in January, before immediately beginning hormone treatment ready for radiotherapy in June.

Figures from last year’s annual report show Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust failed to meet expected cancer treatment start dates of 62 days 61.5 per cent of time in 2017/18.

This places the trust as low as 126th of 131 trusts across the country.

While a Freedom of Information request shows for the 12-month covering 2018, the target was hit in just 53.9 per cent of cases.

Mr Lavelle, 72, said: “It’s no secret that there are various pressures on the NHS, and it’s no surprise that they also apply to Worcestershire.

“But the question is – why so appallingly low compared with other trusts in the country?”

The pensioner went for an annual PSA test at Abbottswood GP surgery in Pershore in late October and was referred to a consultant at the beginning of November.

The consultant gave him a finger test before sending him for an MRI scan.

“That doesn’t give a full picture, so I was referred for a biopsy, which clinches it,” said Mr Lavelle. “I was pretty sure I had cancer because of the way the specialist was talking.” He was then told by his consultant that the biopsy would likely take place sometime in early December but having not heard anything a week into the month, he chased it up and was told it would likely be in March.

“It’s not just about the worrying about having cancer, it’s making sure you catch it early, otherwise it could become more of a problem,” he said.

The cancer was found early enough but Mr Lavelle worries that may not have been the case if he hadn’t gone private.

“I’ve got no queries with my doctor or the consultant or the oncologist and people will say the Government needs to put more funding into the NHS. But nevertheless that 126 figure, someone has to account for that. They’ve got to say why it is.”

He went on to say: “With potentially devastating diseases as cancers, patients do need to know their true position. Our trust does seem to lurch from crisis to crisis, unable to extract itself from special measures. And it’s not a recent crisis.”

“In 2011 the Trust came joint bottom of 100 trusts after a Care Quality Commission investigation of basic care of the elderly in hospitals.”

“The continuing state of crisis at our Trust is surely unacceptable. How much longer do we have to tolerate this sad state of affairs?”

Matthew Hopkins, trust chief executive, said: “In common with most other trusts, WAHT has faced a number of challenges which have impacted on our ability to meet some of our cancer waiting time targets.

“Since October 2018 the trust has regularly achieved six out of the eight national core cancer standards. We strive to provide high quality and safe care for every one of our patients and our hard-working staff go above and beyond to ensure that patient safety is the highest priority. We are focussing considerable effort on improving our performance against the 62 day cancer standard to ensure our patients are not waiting longer than necessary to receive the care that they need. Plans are in place to achieve the 62 day standard by September 2019.”