HEALTH Secretary Victoria Atkins said there is "more to do" on reducing waiting times for treatment for cancer patients in Dorset.

The cabinet member was visiting a new outpatient unit, which is part of a multi-million pound development in Dorset County Hospital (DCH) in Dorchester.

Mrs Atkins said: "I am delighted to be visiting Dorset and I have also just been to the Westminster Community Hospital because I want to see how Dorset is thriving and providing good medical and healthcare services to local residents.

"Here today in the outpatient unit, this is an old council building but you wouldn't know it, it is very much appreciated by patients and staff working here.

"This is about our investment into NHS services here in Dorset as part of our determination to ensure the NHS is surviving for the next 75 years.

"The investment we have seen under this government in recent years in this part of the county is really commendable, not just the £14 million in the outpatient unit, but the new A&E site as well.

"The trust is delivering for local residents, they have exceeded the national target for four-hour waits that is good news, of course there will always be more to do."

As previously reported, cancer waiting times for Dorset patients are below the national target.

The latest figures from DCH show that in March only 78.5 per cent of patients received their first cancer treatment within the 62-day standard set by NHS England.

Mrs Atkins said: "This is one of the top priorities I have as Health Secretary, we are nationally seeing a large increase in the number of people coming forward with cancer referrals.

"We are treating more people more quickly, we have introduced the faster diagnosis standard because we want to turbocharge how quickly people can be seen by clinicians.

"Nationally more than nine out of ten people are treated within 31 days.

"Dorset is just below the national target but this is important, they are focused on this, and they have plans in place.

"We all appreciate that there is more to do but the staff here are really showing a determination to meet that standard."

The Health Secretary was also asked about plans to re-introduce staff parking charges at Dorset County Hospital.

Mrs Atkins said: "We all know during Covid, parking charges were lifted.

"We have always said parking is for local trusts, everybody here in Dorset will know far better the road network and the parking challenges in Dorchester.

"It has to be a local decision but we have insisted that if a member of NHS staff is working at night, they should not be charged during the night, blue badge holders should not be charged and we have tried to look after patients and families who may have frequent visits to the hospital.

"We also know in locations such as Dorchester, if a hospital has free parking, sadly some people will use that car park for non-hospital reasons.

"It is the decision for local trusts to make whether they should charge for parking."