NHS cancer patients’ wait to start treatment worrying

Around a fourth of cancer patients under the NHS have a worryingly long wait for their treatment to begin. This is a cause for significant concern say experts. The new figures from NHS England reveal that the health service has not been meeting targets of on-time health care delivery to cancer patients for over 1,000 days. Similar figures have emerged from the A&E department performance.

The figures further show that after an urgent GP referral for a cancer patients, ideally the treatment should begin within 62 days. According to recommendations at least 85 percent of the patients should be seen during this time. January figures however reveal that only 76.2 percent of the patients are seen within this time frame.

According to Dr Fran Woodard, executive director of policy and impact at Macmillan Cancer Support, “January 2019 marks five years since the 62-day cancer target was first missed and, despite the best efforts of hard working NHS staff, more than 127,000 people have been left waiting too long to start vital treatment throughout that time.” A spokeswoman from the NHS said in a statement, “More people than ever before are coming forward for cancer checks, with a quarter of a million more people getting checked for cancer this year and thousands more being treated within the two-month target. NHS England is investing an additional £10m this year to treat extra people and the NHS Long Term Plan sets out a range of ambitious measures to catch more cancers earlier, which will save thousands of lives every year.”

Waiting time has not been looking good for the A&E department as well says the report. Only 84.2 percent of the patients are seen within the four hour target time. The recommended numbers of 95 percent have not been met since July 2015, says the report. An NHS spokeswoman said to this, “Despite significant increases in demand, almost a quarter of a million more people have been seen and treated within four hours in A&E this winter compared to last year. Ambulance services are responding to life threatening calls faster, with fewer ambulance handover delays at A&E, and significantly more people have got the support they needed to avoid a long stay in hospital.”

The Royal College of Surgeons has issued a statement saying that 227,569 patients are kept waiting for over six months for a planned procedure. At present 4.16 million people are waiting to start on their treatment says the report. Professor Derek Alderson, president of the RCS, in a statement said, “The backlog of patients waiting to start treatment continues to grow. There are now over 100,000 more patients waiting longer than 18 weeks to start treatment when compared with the same time last year.”

Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth in a statement said, “Today’s statistics will do little to allay frontline concerns that targets will be changed not on the basis of clinical consensus, but because of political pressure from Tory ministers.” He called the situation “shameful”.

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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