PATIENTS at York Hospital Trust are waiting too long to be assessed for emergency and cancer care, national inspectors have said.

An investigation has been launched at York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust by health regulator Monitor, which has said "it is simply not acceptable for patients to be waiting too long in A&E or to be seen following a cancer referral".

Cancer patients have had to wait too long for treatment and the trust - which runs hospitals in York, Scarborough, Bridlington, Whitby, Malton and Selby - has failed to meet waiting time targets for A&E for the fifth time in nearly two years.

"Repeated failure" to ensure patients are seen quickly enough could indicate wider problems in how York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is run, the regulator has said.

Frances Shattock, regional director at Monitor, said: “It is simply not acceptable for patients to be waiting too long in A&E or to be seen following a cancer referral. That’s why we are opening an investigation to understand the issues and, if necessary, make sure the trust makes urgent improvements on behalf of its patients."

York Outer MP Julian Sturdy said waiting times were a concern among his constituents.

He said: "The current delays are frankly not good enough as I have made clear to the Hospital Trust...It is absolutely vital for patients across York and the wider region that our local hospitals consistently deliver the highest quality healthcare. Sadly this investigation shows this is not currently the case".

Patients with suspected breast cancer have had to wait longer than the two week urgent referral time from their GP for suspected breast cancer - primarily in Scarborough, the trust has said.

Scarborough referrals have been re-directed to York since July to address the problem as a temporary measure and until new members of staff can be recruited.

Patrick Crowley, chief executive of York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said:  “We must treat any scrutiny of our performance as an opportunity to learn and improve, and whilst I do not want people to be unduly worried by this it is nonetheless something we are approaching as an absolutely priority.

“The difficulties in A&E are well documented, and in many ways this action by Monitor is inevitable given the pressures we are facing."

He emphasised the investigation is not concerned with the care or treatment provided to cancer patients, which met targets.

Mr Crowley said problems in A&E were symptomatic of wider problems "and not one that can only be resolved through changes in either A&E or the wider acute pathway within our hospitals".  

Monitor said the investigation could take months and potential outcomes could be setting up an improvement plan or deciding the trust needs "extra support at a senior level".