POLITICS

Number Of Cancer Patients Waiting Longer For Treatment Has Skyrocketed, Labour Says

'People are being let down by the government.'

11 August 2017
Dan Kitwood via Getty Images

The number of cancer patients waiting longer than they should for treatment has skyrocketed in the last five years, Labour says.

Analysis of latest quarterly figures by the party shows 26,710 patients waited at least two months following an urgent GP referral - 87% higher compared with the same period five years ago.

The statistics, released by NHS England this week showed in June, two of eight cancer targets were not met, including the 85% standard for 62 days between referral from a GP and first treatment.

The number of people waiting two weeks or longer for their first consultant appointment also rose by 121%.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “Theresa May’s first year in office has been characterised by unprecedented numbers of cancelled operations and delayed cancer treatments.

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“Her staggering failure to properly support cancer services has placed entirely unnecessary mental and physical strain on thousands of families, as well as on our overstretched and undervalued cancer workforce.

“Frankly, cancer patients and their loved ones are being let down by this government.

“This disgraceful situation cannot be allowed to continue and one year into her premiership, the prime minister must finally take urgent action to ensure cancer treatment remains world class in our NHS.”

Leading cancer charities said the government had to make good on its promise to make cancer treatment a priority.  

“Timely access to treatment should be a standard part of anybody’s cancer journey, but sadly these figures show that this isn’t the case for thousands of people each month,” said Lucy Schonegevel, public affairs manager at Macmillan Cancer Support.

“Waiting to start treatment is often an incredibly difficult time, and should not go on a moment longer than is necessary.

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Theresa May has pledged to make improving cancer treatment a priority.

“The government has made clear that tackling failed cancer waiting time targets is a priority, and we look forward to seeing a marked improvement in performance for the rest of the year.”

Sara Bainbridge, Cancer Research UK’s policy manager, said cancer targets were put in place to reduce the anxiety patients feel when waiting to be seen by  specialists.

“We know there is pressure on the services providing tests and results to people who might have cancer, and this demand for diagnostic tests will continue to grow,” she added.

“The government and NHS England are making cancer waiting times a priority. Key to meeting these targets must include training and recruiting more radiologists, pathologists and endoscopists so that there is long term improvement.

“We need to have more expert staff to diagnose patients earlier. This will help achieve the cancer strategy’s ambition for patients in England to have survival matching the best in the world.”

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