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Reporting on Radiation Treatment Waiting Times

Reporting on Radiation Treatment Waiting Times

Issues resulting from a change in the way data is reported to the Ministry of Health have caused a delay in getting information on radiation waiting times placed online, spokesperson Colin Feek said today.

Dr Feek emphasised that the Ministry is committed to openness and transparency in providing information on cancer treatment waiting times.

"While we're sorting out the issues, The Ministry of Health has been reassured by each of the centres that there have been no significant increases in waiting times for radiation treatment," said Dr Feek, Deputy Director-General, Clinical Services.

The change in reporting requirements came about as a result of a Waikato District Health Board decision in April 2001.

The DHB decided it was in the best interests of the clinical management and treatment of its cancer patients that patients had a shorter time between their first specialist assessment with an oncologist and the start of radiation treatment.

The patient waits longer for the first specialist assessment than at other cancer treatment centres, but this wait is balanced by a shorter wait between assessment and radiation treatment.

"However from a data point of view, it meant direct comparisons with the other treatment centres weren't possible, so as a result of a Health Select Committee request we asked all DHBs that provide radiation treatment to include the time from referral to first specialist assessment as well," said Dr Feek.

"But despite considerable efforts from both the Ministry of Health and the DHBs, A number of the centres have had difficulty providing this information for reasons that have varied between centres."

"We're currently working with those DHBs to rectify this, and will be posting it to the Ministry website as soon as comprehensive data from the DHBs is available."

Dr Feek said gaps and fragmentation of the available information might make comparisons of this data difficult but repeated the assurance given by the DHBs that the waiting times are still being managed appropriately.

"Had it all gone to plan we would have statistics for September, October and November available by now, but in the meantime the Ministry Of Health is asking the centres to provide the data in the old format, to ensure the information can soon be posted on the website."

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