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Articles in The Guardian and Daily Mail report an analysis of NHS performance data, which shows more than 130,000 patients a year are not receiving vital NHS cancer care on time because hospitals are struggling to look after the growing number of people suspected of having the disease.
Widespread and growing failure to meet waiting time targets is causing huge anxiety for cancer patients and may even be harming their chances of survival.
A total of 132,138 patients in England last year did not see a cancer specialist within the required 14 days, or start treatment, such as surgery or radiotherapy, within the supposed maximum 31 after diagnosis, or 62 days after initial consultation and tests, according to an analysis of NHS-wide performance data conducted by Cancer Research UK.
The figures show that over 100,000 people with suspected cancer did not get to see a specialist within 14 days of being referred as urgent cases by their GP during 2015-16. Another 6,713 patients found to have the disease did not receive their first treatment within 31 days. And a further 24,285 were not treated within 62 days, despite being referred urgently by their family doctor. It is also stated that the NHS has breached the 62 day target in every quarter for the last two and a half years (since this story was published, latest provider-based waiting time data shows that the 62 day target has been breached for eleven consecutive quarters since Q4 2013-14).
A spokesman from the Department of Health said in a statement, “The reality is the NHS is seeing over 90% more patients with suspected cancer within two weeks – that’s over 800,000 more people – and treating nearly 50,000 more patients following a GP referral compared to 2010.”