Majority of surgeries for three malignant cancers occur within 30 days
Most patients needing surgery to remove some common malignant cancers receive their operations in good time, with over 90% of patients being treated within 30 days, a new report by the National Health Performance Authority shows.
Released today, the report – the first hospital-by-hospital comparison of waiting times for cancer surgery – covers 12,699 planned operations for malignant breast, bowel or lung cancers in 2011–12. It found most hospitals were treating patients in good time, with 97% of patients receiving surgery within 45 days.
But the report, Hospital Performance: Cancer surgery waiting times in public hospitals in 2011–12, also found that nationally, 1,090 patients waited longer than 30 days for their surgeries and 382 of these patients waited longer than 45 days. Patients who waited longer were not spread evenly across all 155 hospitals in the report, but instead were concentrated in a smaller group of hospitals.
The report reveals:
- Breast cancer patients were least prone to extended waits for their surgery.
- Of the 7,436 patients treated at the 137 hospitals covered in the report for malignant breast cancer surgery, 417 patients (6%) waited longer than 30 days, and 101 patients (1%) waited longer than 45 days
- Among major metropolitan hospitals, 39 of 44 hospitals performed at least 90% of breast cancer surgeries within 30 days. The hospitals with the lowest percentages of patients receiving surgery for malignant breast cancer within 30 days were Nambour Hospital, Qld (79%) and Calvary Mater Hospital, NSW (78%).
- Bowel cancer patients were more prone at some hospitals to lengthier waits for surgery.
- Of the 4,345 patients treated at the 127 hospitals covered in this report for malignant bowel cancer surgery, 576 patients (13%) waited longer than 30 days, and 243 patients (6%) waited longer than 45 days
- Across major metropolitan hospitals, 30 of 49 hospitals performed at least 90% of surgeries within 30 days. The hospitals with the lowest percentages of patients receiving surgery for malignant bowel cancer within 30 days were Fremantle Hospital, WA (52%), Calvary Mater Hospital, NSW (47%) and Princess Alexandra Hospital, Qld (39%).
- Lung cancer patients were mostly treated promptly but could face longer waits at some hospitals.
- Of the 918 patients treated at the 45 hospitals covered in this report for malignant lung cancer surgery, 97 patients (11%) waited longer than 30 days, and 38 (4%) waited longer than 45 days
- Across major hospitals, 17 of 28 hospitals performed at least 90% of surgeries within 30 days. The hospitals with the lowest percentages of patients receiving surgery for malignant lung cancer within 30 days were Princess Alexandra Hospital, Qld (67%) and Liverpool Hospital, NSW (36%).
In Australia there are no maximum acceptable waiting time benchmarks for planned cancer surgery. Surgeries are prioritised using the same urgency categories used for other planned surgeries.
Hospitals included in the report were allocated to one of three peer groups (major metropolitan, major regional and large hospitals). The report showed median cancer surgery waiting times – the time taken to see 50% of patients – did not vary significantly between peer groups.
“This report allows hospitals to see how they compare with similar hospitals for these waiting times. This information allows them to target improvements specific to their hospital and learn from hospitals that have shorter waiting times,” Performance Authority CEO Dr Diane Watson said.
Cancer is responsible for one-third of all deaths in Australia. The report focuses on three of the most common cancers for which surgery is a key component of treatment. Without timely surgery, cancers may progress and patients may face a reduced opportunity for cure.
Waiting times for cancer care is one of the 48 indicators approved by the Council of Australian Governments as a measure of health system performance. These indicators form the basis for the Performance Authority’s work.