Four out of every ten cancer patients in Barking, Havering and Redbridge are currently waiting too long to start treatment after being referred by their GP.

Cancer performance at Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (BHRUT), which runs King George Hospital and Queen’s Hospital, was hit hard by the effects of coronavirus pandemic and has yet to fully recover.

This means a significant number of cancer patients urgently referred to the trust by their GP are waiting more than 62 days to receive their first treatment.

Neighbouring trusts Barts Health NHS Trust and Homerton Hospital were able to return to pre-Covid performance in June and July this year, according to a report prepared for the north east London joint commissioning committee.

Read more: East London hospitals record highest Covid death tolls in London

BHRUT’s chief operating officer Shelagh Smith said: “Like all NHS trusts, Covid-19 has had a huge impact on our services and we’ve worked extremely hard to put measures in place to ensure we can care for all of our patients safely during the pandemic.

“At the height of the pandemic we made significant and rapid changes to our cancer treatments to protect our most vulnerable patients, working closely with the independent sector to ensure they still got the care they needed, and safely.

“We continue to work closely with the independent sector to reduce delays for our patients. We’re also creating additional capacity to allow us to see patients whose care has been impacted.

“And we introduced Covid-secure green zones in our hospitals so we can carry out planned surgery.

“We understand some people are anxious about coming into our hospitals during the pandemic, which is why we’re working closely with our local healthcare partners to ensure our patients have the reassurance they need to feel safe coming into hospital.”

The report for the NEL JCC meeting on November 11 explained that the trust has “a detailed performance recovery plan in place” to address the long waits for cancer patients.

This will include “ensure sufficient staffing levels” and opening an Early Diagnostic Centre in Mile End, Tower Hamlets next month.

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