Nearly a quarter of NHS cancer patients start treatment late

March 14, 2019

Nearly a quarter of all NHS cancer patients do not start treatment on time - the worst performance on record.

The health service has missed its key cancer target for more than 1,000 days, according to new figures from NHS England.

Hospitals should start cancer treatment within 62 days of an urgent GP referral - with a minimum of 85% of patients being seen within this time frame.

However, figures for January show the worst performance on record, with just 76.2% of patients treated within the target.

Dr Fran Woodard, executive director of policy and impact at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: "January 2019 marks five years since the 62-day cancer target was first missed and, despite the best efforts of hard working NHS staff, more than 127,000 people have been left waiting too long to start vital treatment throughout that time."

An NHS spokeswoman said: "More people than ever before are coming forward for cancer checks, with a quarter of a million more people getting checked for cancer this year and thousands more being treated within the two-month target.

"NHS England is investing an additional £10m this year to treat extra people and the NHS Long Term Plan sets out a range of ambitious measures to catch more cancers earlier, which will save thousands of lives every year."

Meanwhile, the NHS England figures also showed A&E performance was at a record low with only 84.2% of patients being seen within the four-hour target - a benchmark that has not been met since July 2015.

Professor John Appleby, chief economist at the Nuffield Trust, said: "Today's figures are the worst performance against the four-hour A&E target since records started and the number of patients waiting on trolleys is creeping above levels seen during the 'Beast from the East' storm last February.

"These measures show the sheer weight of pressure that NHS staff are facing on a daily basis and will understandably worry patients at a very difficult time."

An NHS spokeswoman added: "Despite significant increases in demand, almost a quarter of a million more people have been seen and treated within four hours in A&E this winter compared to last year.

"Ambulance services are responding to life threatening calls faster, with fewer ambulance handover delays at A&E, and significantly more people have got the support they needed to avoid a long stay in hospital."

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