Delays in head and neck cancer treatment lead to increased mortality, more extensive treatment and patient anxiety. We aim to treat all patients with cancer within 62 days of receipt of a referral. An analysis was conducted of those patients whose treatment had been delayed in order to identify factors associated with treatment delay.
In this retrospective case–control study, 50 patients whose treatment was delayed were identified and compared with 50 patients whose treatment was not delayed. Individual factors assessed included patient age, co-morbidity, tumour location and stage, the treatment agreed, the hospitals to which the patients were referred, and the clinicians they saw.
There was a significant association between referral to a non-head and neck cancer centre, or review by a non-head and neck multidisciplinary team member, and treatment delay.
In the context of centralisation of head and neck cancer services, it is important to consider delays that may be associated with a ‘hub and spoke’ model of service provision.