NHS cancer treatment waiting times are on course to be the worst on record, latest official figures suggest. Over halfway through the year, new figures show that 133,843 cancer patients have not been treated within the relevant standards.
In eight out of nine published cancer targets, between April and September, the health service treated the lowest or joint lowest percentage of patients since the standards were introduced, according to official figures published on Thursday.
The figure amounts to 77% of the number of patients treated outside the standard in the previous 12 months and is greater than the total in each of the first three years that all nine standards – introduced in 2012-13 – were in operation.
From July to September, the percentage of patients who went into surgery within a month of a decision to treat fell to 93.5%, meaning 897 were not operated on within 31 days, the first quarter in which the 94% operational standard was not met.
Last month, 78.2% of patients started treatment within two months of being urgently referred by their GP with suspected cancer, against the target of 85%. This was the 33rd month in a row in which the target was breached. In the second quarter of the year, 8,836 patients were not treated within two months of an urgent GP referral, meaning the percentage of those treated within the target time fell to 78.6%.
Since the target was first breached in January 2014, more than 118,000 people have waited more than two months for treatment to start.
A Worrying Trend for NHS Cancer Treatment Waiting Times
Dr Fran Woodard, from Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “These figures are further evidence of a worrying trend which demonstrates that the pressure on cancer services is truly beginning to bite. We must not forget that at the heart of these figures are thousands of cancer patients anxiously waiting for referral for diagnosis or to start treatment.”
“It is imperative the Government now seizes the once-in-a-generation opportunity to address the challenges facing the workforce in the NHS Long Term Plan. We cannot expect world-class cancer care for patients in the future without enough staff with the right skills to deliver it.”
The British Medical Association (BMA) said the figures should “ring alarm bells” for the NHS and the Government.