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Waiting time for patients 'unacceptable'

PUBLISHED: 10:52 26 May 2009 | UPDATED: 13:58 03 July 2010

PEOPLE who need tests to see if they are at risk of major diseases such as cancer, cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy are having to wait anxious months for the information.

PEOPLE who need tests to see if they are at risk of major diseases such as cancer, cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy are having to wait anxious months for the information.

More than 70 people from East Anglia have already waited more than 13 weeks, which is supposed to be the national maximum. The specialist clinical genetics service is run by Addenbrooke's hospital in Cambridge for the whole region. Seventy-three people have been waiting more than 13 weeks since being referred from their GP. Of those, 25 are from Norfolk, 20 from Suffolk, one from Yarmouth and Waveney and the rest from Cambridgeshire.

Addenbrooke's admits that the delays are “unacceptable” and says that the shortage is because of higher demand than can be met by their existing staff. The hospital has been issued with a performance notice, which is an official “must do better” from the NHS.

A spokesman said: “We are sorry that some patients have had to wait. We are urgently working with NHS colleagues across the region to secure extra funding to increase the number of genetic counsellors and genetic consultants so we can reduce these unacceptable delays.

“There are 25 patients from Norfolk and 20 patients from Suffolk who have waited more than 13 weeks after being referred to the service by their GP.

“These patients have possible or confirmed genetic disorders. Clinically urgent patients are being brought to the front of the queue.”

Clinical genetics provides diagnosis for families with or at risk of genetic conditions, including cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, inherited breast or colorectal cancer, and birth defects such as cleft palate. It also provides an advice service about the risk and likely effects of genetic conditions.

Addenbrooke's has asked for more money from the East of England Specialised Commissioning Group, which commissions the service. A spokesman for the group said: “Discussions are taking place between the commissioner and Addenbrooke's on the level of investment requested and how the pathway for referrals could be designed to support the Department of Health guidance.”

John Turner, interim director of performance at NHS Yarmouth and Waveney, said: “That is a significant problem.” And trust chairman David Edwards, who only heard about the problem this week, said: “Why are we only hearing now about 70-odd cases? There must be something wrong with the communication systems.”

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