How the NHS is failing 130,000 cancer patients a year


Shocking new figures from Cancer Research reveal more than 130,000 patients are not receiving timely NHS cancer care.
The research reveals patients are being failed because medics cannot cope with the soaring numbers of people who either have, or are suspected to have, cancer.
Doctors say that because they simply cannot meet waiting time targets, it is leading to anxiousness for patients who are living in limbo until they get their results. It could even harm their chances of survival if treatment does not start quickly enough.
According to the new statistics, 132,138 patients in England did not see a cancer specialist within the 14 day waiting time set out in NHS regulations.
Nor, did they start treatment such as surgery or radiotherapy within 31 days after diagnosis, which is meant to be the maximum time they should wait, or the 62 days after their initial consultation and tests.
In some hospitals, the delays were so bad that more than 6,000 patients waited for 104 days or more.
The figures are soaring, in comparison to the numbers suffering lengthy delays in previous years.
Professor Peter Johnson, Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician described the new statistics as “alarming”.
He added: “The number of people for whom these targets are being missed is a real source of concern. Delay creates additional anxiety for people. That matters for individual patients affected in a precise way because they have a prolonged period of uncertainty. Do I have cancer or do I not? And if I do have cancer, will it be curable?”
Prof Johnson, who is a leading NHS cancer specialist in Southampton,added that in worst cases, delays may even mean the chance of a cure is lost.
“Delays mean that there will be some people whose cancer gets worse while they wait for the result [of a test]. I’m pretty angry about that. This all reflects a system that’s failing to meet the needs of people with cancer or suspected cancer,” he added.
The data shows that 101,140 people with suspected cancer did not get to see a specialist within 14 days of being referred as urgent cases by their GP during 2015-16. A further 6,713 patients found to have the disease did not receive their first treatment within 31 days. And another 24,285 were not treated within 62 days, despite being referred urgently by their GP.