Home Health news Number of cancer patients waiting twice as long as they should to start cancer treatment has doubled since 2020, figures show

Number of cancer patients waiting twice as long as they should to start cancer treatment has doubled since 2020, figures show

by Editor

The number of cancer patients waiting twice as long as they should to start treatment has doubled since 2020, figures show.

Almost 16,000 patients have waited more than four months to receive cancer care after receiving an urgent referral over the past four years.

This is twice as long as the NHS target which requires treatment to start within two months of when cancer is first suspected.

Experts described the delays as ‘worrying’, warning long waits now could cost lives in years to come.

Analysis by the Liberal Democrats showed 6,334 patients waited over 124 days last year – over double the 2,922 in 2020.

The number of cancer patients waiting twice as long as they should to start treatment has doubled since 2020, figures show (Stock Photo)

The number of cancer patients waiting twice as long as they should to start treatment has doubled since 2020, figures show (Stock Photo)

Almost 16,000 patients have waited more than four months to receive cancer care after receiving an urgent referral over the past four years (Stock Photo)

Almost 16,000 patients have waited more than four months to receive cancer care after receiving an urgent referral over the past four years (Stock Photo)

More than 1,100 cancer patients were left waiting more than 6 months to start treatment last year, according to results from a Freedom of Information request.

Data was received from 69 out of 137 acute health trusts in the UK, meaning the true numbers will be far higher.

Long waits at University Hospitals Leicester almost quadrupled with 484 patients spending more than four months on the waiting list compared to 122 in 2020.

Some 163 were kept waiting for more than 6 months, a more than five-fold rise from 31 over the same period.

Similarly, Leeds Teaching Hospitals saw 303 patients wait four months last year, compared with 120 in 2020.

One patient at the Frimley NHS Foundation Trust, Surrey, started treatment more than two years – 811 days – after first being urgently referred.

Another at the Princess Alexandra Hospital Trust, Essex, waited 505 days to receive treatment, while one at the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust spent 496 days on the waiting list.

Dr Owen Jackson, Director of Policy at Cancer Research UK, said: ‘Behind these missed targets are patients – friends, family and loved ones – who are facing unacceptably long and anxious waits for treatment after already knowing that they have cancer.

‘The reality is that the two-month treatment target has not been met since 2015 – and that represents a long-term failure to plan and invest in cancer services.’

He called for more staff and equipment for the NHS, alongside reform to cancer services.

‘Without this, cancer patients will continue to face even more fear and anxiety, during what is already a stressful time in their lives,’ he added.

Health leaders said NHS cancer checks have more than doubled in the last decade with more cancers caught early.

Strikes by junior doctors and consultants also took their toll, with more than 7,000 cancer operations have been delayed as a result of the industrial action.

Rory Deighton, director of the NHS Confederation’s Acute Network, said health leaders ‘are doing all they can’ to recover cancer service performance.

‘The roll out of rapid diagnostics has been very successful in diagnosing cancers quicker, but there is a risk that this creates more patients waiting for treatment than can currently be seen.

Long waits at University Hospitals Leicester (pictured) almost quadrupled with 484 patients spending more than four months on the waiting list compared to 122 in 2020

Long waits at University Hospitals Leicester (pictured) almost quadrupled with 484 patients spending more than four months on the waiting list compared to 122 in 2020

One patient at the Princess Alexandra Hospital Trust (pictured), Essex, waited 505 days to receive treatment

One patient at the Princess Alexandra Hospital Trust (pictured), Essex, waited 505 days to receive treatment

‘Our members also welcome public health measures to tackle smoking and obesity – including the proposed smoking ban – which will help reduce the prevalence of some of the most common cancers.’

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said £2.3 billion had been invested into Community Diagnostic Centres across England which are speeding up diagnosis for cancer.

He said: ‘The NHS has seen and treated record numbers of cancer patients over the past two years, with survival rates improving across almost all types of cancer – and it is making real progress in reducing long waiting times for cancer diagnosis, with latest data showing that over 78 per cent of patients waited less than 28 days for their diagnosis in February.’ 

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