NHS waiting time target for urgent cancer care breached for first time

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THE TARGET waiting time for those needing urgent cancer treatment has been breached for the first time since it was introduced.

NHS guidelines say that 85 per cent of patients should wait a maximum of 62 days to begin their first definitive treatment following an urgent referral for suspected cancer from their GP.

But figures released today show that this slipped to 84.4 per cent during the period January to March, down from 85.8 per cent during the last quarter.

National clinical director for Cancer for NHS England, Sean Duffy, said work must be done to make sure standards are met. “It is vital cancer patients are diagnosed and treated quickly so they have the best possible chance of recovery,” he said.

“Latest figures show nationally the NHS has met and exceeded seven out of eight cancer waiting time standards. But there is variation in meeting the challenging standards, and national performance against one of the targets has dipped.

“CCG commissioners are working together with local providers where the standard is not being met to identify the issues to ensure patients are treated in a timely way.”

Other figures released by NHS England on cancer waiting times showed the number of people seen by a specialist within two weeks of an urgent GP referral for suspected cancer has also dropped from 95.6 per cent to 95 per cent, while 93.9 per cent of people urgently referred for breast symptoms (where cancer was not initially suspected) were seen within two weeks compared to 95.5 per cent previously – just within the target of 93 per cent.

In total, 60,425 patients who exhibited breast symptoms where cancer was not initially suspected were seen in the first three months of this year after being urgently referred. Of these, 93.9 per cent were seen within 14 days, compared to 95.5 per cent in the previous quarter.