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Cancer treatment to be sped up even further

Hon Tony Ryall

Minister of Health

28 August 2014 Media Statement
Cancer treatment to be sped up even further

If your doctor suspects you have cancer, the Government will ensure you see a cancer specialist and receive treatment faster than ever before.

Health Minister Tony Ryall announced a new faster cancer treatment target will be introduced from 1 October during a visit to the Cancer Society’s Domain Lodge this afternoon with Prime Minister John Key.

“The new target will extend the scope of the current health target so people with suspected cancer receive faster access to all services from diagnostic tests to surgery or other treatment,” says Mr Ryall.

“Waiting for a cancer diagnosis is a very stressful time for people and their families.

“We inherited cancer services which were failing New Zealanders. Patients were waiting months for treatment and some had to travel to Australia because of lengthy delays here. Thankfully those days are over – all patients now receive radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatment within four weeks of being ready to treat.

“We will build on our successful plan and introduce a new national health target which will ensure cancer patients receive their diagnostic tests, surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy even faster.

“If your GP suspects you have cancer, you should see a cancer specialist within two weeks. Diagnostic tests and clinical investigations will be completed in a faster, more streamlined way and our goal is for patients to receive their first cancer treatment within a maximum 62 days of their original GP’s referral.

“The new target is much broader than the current cancer health target, which focuses on how long patients wait to start their chemotherapy and radiotherapy when ready to treat. The current cancer target didn’t include surgery, which is often the first treatment step for patients, or the time patients wait to see a cancer specialist and have tests done.

“The maximum 62 days is an international gold standard for cancer treatment. Currently in New Zealand around 60-65 per cent of patients receive their first cancer treatment within this time.

“The new target will be for 90 per cent of patients to receive their first treatment within a maximum 62 days of seeing their GP by June 2017.

“Having a similar target has had a big effect in other countries. When the measure was introduced in the UK in 2001, about 60 per cent of cancer patients received their first treatment within a maximum 62 days – by the end of last year this had risen to over 85 per cent.

Mr Ryall says New Zealand will see similar improvements here.

“This Government has invested more than $100 million extra to support people with cancer and improve services - and we have already made significant progress.

“It is only through the sound economic management of the National-led government that we have been able to invest in, and deliver world-class cancer services.”

Implementing the new target is part of the faster cancer treatment initiative already budgeted for – the Government has already spent $19 million and will spend a further $41 million over the next three years.

“The new maximum 62 day faster cancer treatment target will build on the gains we have made over the past five years and provide New Zealanders with even faster cancer services,” says Mr Ryall.

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