The district health board has defended statistics that show cancer patients were the biggest losers when it came to being offered faster treatment.

Statistics released by the Ministry of Health yesterday showed that patients being offered faster cancer treatment in Hawke's Bay had dropped by 15 per cent on last quarter.

This placed the health board at number 19 of 20 DHBs across the country in offering this service.

However, Hawke's Bay DHB chief executive Kevin Snee said the faster cancer treatment target was a relatively new measure.


It was about capturing the right data so the health board knew it was prioritising people at risk of cancer.

"It would be wrong to say that this health target means people are missing out on early cancer diagnosis, as it's more about recording the data correctly," he said.

"We are working through that so we can be confident patient prioritisation is correctly recorded across the district health board."

Mr Snee said April figures for the target show the DHB was at 73 per cent of the faster cancer treatment target.

"This is a 10 per cent increase on the March 2016 figures.

"We expect to see a substantial improvement in next quarter's report," he said.

The Ministry reports the target for faster cancer treatment is that 85 per cent patients receive their first treatment, or other management, within 62 days of being referred with a high suspicion of cancer and a need to be seen by July 2016.

Results cover those patients who received their first cancer treatment between October 1, 2015 and March 31, 2016.

The Ministry's performance review also showed that Hawke's Bay DHB was struggling to offer better help for smokers to quit.

The DHB is at the same place, 19, as it was last quarter - but access to this service has dropped significantly on this time last year by 12 per cent.

Mr Snee said the definition of better help for smokers to quit changed earlier this year and it now related to people who not only visited their GP but people who enrolled with a GP.

"So there's a different data source, which explains the 12 per cent drop," he said.

"The actual figure has increased from last quarter and we expect to see an increase in the next quarter results."

He said the DHB was working closely with Health Hawke's Bay to help general practice achieve the target.

The DHB has bettered its performance in immunisations, jumping up nine places on the Ministry's measure with a 3 per cent increase, and had offered improved access to elective surgery.

Mr Snee said the health board's overall immunisation programme was well co-ordinated and that it had consistently been one of the top performers in this target area for a number of years.