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Government chalks up ‘worst ever’ NHS cancer treatment wait figures

The NHS has achieved its ‘worst ever’ performance on cancer treatment waiting times, with more than one in five people having to waiting longer than the target maximum delay of two months for treatment in January, official figures have revealed.

Cancer charities said the figure for the 62-day cancer treatment target – which has now been missed annually for three years – was ‘completely unacceptable’ and urged the Government to tackle staff shortages.

The figures show that 79.7% of patients diagnosed with cancer received their first treatment within 62 days of being referred by their GP, against the target of 85.0%. The figure – the first time it has dipped below 80% - is down from 83.0% in December last year, and follows a long-term fall in performance against this target since mid-2014.

Emma Greenwood, director of policy at Cancer Research UK, said: ‘Today’s figures for January are the worst ever performance against this crucial cancer target - which has now been missed annually for three years. This is completely unacceptable.’

She added: ‘The Government and NHSE England have committed to improving early diagnosis of cancer, including increasing investment, but it’s clear that this is yet to have an impact.

‘Specifically we have yet to see any significant progress to address huge staff shortages in the diagnostic workforce: especially for radiologist, pathologists, endoscopists and radiographers.’

A Department of Health spokesperson said: 'What Cancer Research UK does not say is that the NHS is meeting seven out of eight cancer waiting times standards, despite 822,000 more people being urgently referred in 2015/16 compared to 2009/10 - an increase of 91%.'

An NHS England spokesperson said: ’For cancer patients, it’s successful treatment that matters most, and NHS cancer survival rates are now at their highest ever. That means another 2,400 people will be alive this year to celebrate their birthday who last year would not have been - a tribute to the brilliant work of their GPs and specialist cancer clinicians.’

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