Cancer treatment wait statistics continue to worsen

New figures have suggested that the NHS is on course for its worst annual cancer waiting statistics on record.

The Quarterly Provider Based Cancer Waiting Times Statistics, published by NHS England, show that between April and September the NHS treated the lowest or joint lowest percentage of patients since the standards were introduced in eight out of the nine published cancer targets.

To September, 133,843 cancer patients had not been treated within the relevant standards, amounting to 77 per cent of the number of patients treated outside the standard in the previous 12 months. This is also greater than the total in each of the first three years that all nine standards were in operation.

Over the time period covering July to September, the percentage of patients who went into surgery within a month of a decision to treat dropped to 93.5 per cent. That shows that 897 patients were not operated on within 31 days, the first quarter in which the 94 per cent operational standard was not met.

In October, only 78.2 per cent of patients started treatment within two months of being urgently referred by their GP with suspected cancer, against the target of 85 per cent, marking the 33rd month in a row that the target was missed.

Fran Woodard, executive director of policy and impact at 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.”

Additionally, the latest figures indicate that there were 48,650 patients waiting at least four hours for a hospital bed after being admitted in an emergency last month, with 212 of these waiting at least 12 hours, more than three times the number a year ago.

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