NHS England failed to meet waiting times for cancel referrals in June, meaning that there has effectively been two and half years’ worth of missed targets in this area.
Performance figures from NHS England indicated that 82.7% of patients beginning their first definitive cancer treatment have been seen within 62 days from an urgent GP referral for suspected cancer.
This marginally missed the 85% of target which has been set by the authorities.
The 93% guide for two-week wait referrals for patients with breast cancer symptoms was also missed, with just under 92% of patients in fact seen within 14 days from GP referral.
Emma Greenwood, Cancer Research UK’s head of policy, branded the last 30 months of NHS cancer treatment and referrals as being nothing short of failure.
“Today’s figures represent two and a half years of failure. More than half of all Trusts in England failed to meet the 85 per cent target for patients receiving their first treatment within 62 days following an urgent GP referral for suspected cancer. This is unacceptable. Cancer waiting times exist to promote swift diagnosis and prompt treatment for patients. Making sure that patients are diagnosed quickly is a vital part of improving their chances of survival and reducing the worry and anxiety that suspected cancer can cause.”
Greenwood also outlined what Cancer Research UK believe to be a viable policy for the NHS in this area going forward.
“Improving waiting times and ensuring earlier diagnosis of cancer is a priority in England’s cancer strategy. We want to see faster progress in implementing the strategy to address poor waiting times and ensure the NHS can diagnose all patients swiftly.”
The views of Greenwood were very much echoed by Duleep Allirajah; head of policy at Macmillan Cancer Support.
Allirajah suggested that the current situation related to cancer referrals is unacceptable, and called on urgent action from both the government and the NHS to address the situation.
“This latest breach is another blot on this sorry record of missed waiting times and is indicative of a failure that is sadly becoming the new norm. We know measures have been taken to incentivise trusts to improve in this area. But if they are to really stand a chance of improving waiting times, the recent one-off investment in early diagnosis by NHS England now needs to be guaranteed for every year between now and 2020. NHS England needs to spell out how much funding will be available, and ensure it is ring fenced.”
There has also been a significant increase in the number of a delayed transfers of care according to official figures, with this having escalated by 23% over the last 12 months.
A&E figures were also up by 3.3%, with 90% of patients admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours of arrival – below the 95% target.
Over 350,000 people are diagnosed with cancer in the UK on an annual basis.