As structural difficulties in the health service become more apparent, the NHS is being criticised for failing to deal with cancer patients adequately.
In many cases, the health service is leaving cancer patients facing unenviable delays in treatment, as hospitals are unable to cope with the numbers of cancer patients.
New NHS figures suggest that hospitals in England failed to ensure people with suspected breast cancer was seen by a specialist within 14 days in satisfactory numbers.
Meanwhile, an insufficient number of cancer patients were treated within 62 days of GP referral.
Commenting on the issue, Lynda Thomas, chief executive of the charity Macmillan Cancer Support, asserted that cancer patients are particularly vulnerable, and that the waiting times currently applicable in the NHS are unacceptable.
“Cancer is the toughest fight most people will ever face and they should not be made to wait any longer than is absolutely necessary to start vital treatment. This can cause real distress to people with cancer and their families at a time when they are at their most vulnerable. It is deeply disappointing to see the 62-day target from an urgent referral to the start of cancer treatment was missed yet again in May. More than 2,000 people waited more than two months to start treatment in May, while, shockingly, 500 people waited more than three months.”
Hospitals are supposed to treat 85% of cancer patients within 62 days according to GP targets.
But only 81.4% of patients actually received their first treatment within this deadline in the month of May, according to the latest performance statistics published by the NHS.
Other key targets were also missed, as the health service continues to be clogged up by excessive numbers of patients.
“This is the sign of a system under extraordinary pressure, with funding not keeping pace with the increased demands being placed upon it,” the aforementioned Thomas asserted.
The consensus among experts is that the NHS will be unable to deliver on government pledges regarding the early diagnosis of cancer, considering the disappointing news relating to treatment times.
Every suspected cancer patient should receives a definitive diagnosis, or the all-clear, within 28 days by 2020, according to commitments put in place by health ministers.
Five pilots will be put in place to test the feasibility of this particular scheme in the foreseeable future, but it seems based on the waiting times for existing patients that these pilots will be seriously tested to deliver the quality of performance desired.
Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrats’ health spokesman, was deeply critical of the Conservative party in relation to these figures, suggesting that they are indicative of the entire ethos of its NHS policy.
“The true legacy of David Cameron is laid bare in this latest set of damning statistics. Theresa May inherits an NHS in freefall.”
Diane Abbott, Labour’s shadow health secretary, suggested that the “figures are another grim reminder that Tory health policies have failed and pushed the NHS to the brink of disaster.”