GWENT is leading the way in Wales in meeting waiting-times targets for the start of cancer treatments – but performance fell during the last three months of 2012.

There are two targets for cancer treatments, depending on the circumstances of the diagnosis.

If a patient is diagnosed with cancer through a care pathway called the urgent suspected cancer route, then treatment should begin within 62 days of that diagnosis in 95 per cent of cases.

If a patient’s cancer is diagnosed as a result of investigation or treatment of another health problem and had previously been unsuspected, treatment should begin inside 31 days in 98 per cent of cases.

The 31-day target has been met for Gwent patients for the past two and a half years, with all but three of the 483 patients (99 per cent) in this category in the three months to December 31 last year beginning their treatment inside the target time.

The 62-day target proves more challenging to meet in Gwent and other parts of Wales, often because there are more treatment options for patients to consider.

In the six months to the end of September last year, 97 per cent of patients in Gwent in the 62-day category began their treatment inside the target time, with Gwent the only one of six health board areas in Wales to meet the 95 per cent target.

In the following three months, performance fell below the target, to 93 per cent, but this remained the best performance in Wales.

Overall since last April, all but 27 of 586 patients in Gwent in the 62-day category have waited longer than that to start their treatment.

This contrasts with 211 (out of 848) in the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg Health Board area, 95 (out of 605) in Hywel Dda, 93 (out of 1,117) in North Wales, 65 (out of 620) in Cardiff and Vale, and 53 (out of 431) in Cwm Taf.

Improvements in Gwent hospitals are focused on head and neck cancer, where there is a demand and capacity issue, and urology, where timely access to diagnostics has been a problem.