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Hospitals fail to meet cancer waiting time targets for GP referrals

18 July 2016

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Hospitals in England failed to meet their cancer treatment waiting time targets in May, according to statistics from NHS England.

Struggling to cope with the growing number of cancer patients, hospitals are failing to ensure people with suspected breast cancer are seeing a specialist within 14 days and having their first treatment within 62 days after their GP’s referral.

Hospitals have a target of treating 85% of people with suspected cancer within 62 days from their GP referral.

However, in May, the NHS’s latest monthly performance statistics revealed that just 81.4% of potential cancer patients underwent their first treatment.

This percentage was down from 82.8% in April and means the NHS has not met the 85% target so far in 2016.

Since January 2015, the health service has only met the target once.

Lynda Thomas, chief executive at Macmillan Cancer Support said: “It is deeply depressing to see the 62 day target from an urgent referral to the start of cancer treatment was missed yet again in May.

“More than 2,000 people waited more than two months to start treatment in May, while shockingly 500 people waited more than three months.

She added: “The crunch winter months for the NHS are behind us, and yet dispiritingly we have seen a deterioration in results compared to April.

“This is the sign of a system under extraordinary pressure, with funding not keeping pace with the increased demands being placed on it.

“The government recently announced a year’s investment in early diagnosis programmes as outlined in the cancer strategy for England. This is welcome, but we need to see guaranteed funding for next year if cancer waiting times are to improve.”

Furthermore, hospitals also missed their target of ensuring 93% of patients with suspected cancer could see a specialist within 14 days.

Instead, just 92.1% of patients had this opportunity in May, which was an increase on the 91.6% the month before.

Diane Abbot, the new shadow secretary of state for health, said: “These figures are another grim reminder that Tory health policies have failed and pushed the NHS to the brink of disaster.

“The NHS has been on its knees for years now. In a clear false economy, cuts to social care mean more and more patients languish in hospitals. Waiting lists are growing, and once again, the Government is failing patients by missing key targets on cancer treatment and A&E waiting times.

“For a whole year now response times for most urgent calls for an ambulance have missed their target. It is also the second consecutive month of record high numbers of patients being delayed leaving hospital.

“Ministers need to act now to undo the damage this Tory Government has done to our NHS and to improve vital service for patients”.

The statistics also revealed that the number of days lost to bedblocking has increased for three months running to a new high of 115,100 days lost.

This increase has been previously attributed to issues related to social care.

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