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More than half of patients waiting longer than 62 days for treatment for some cancers

More than half of patients waiting longer than 62 days for treatment for some cancers

The latest NHS figures for cancer waiting times show 42% of patients waiting more than 62 days for first treatment from urgent GP referral.

Figures for February show that for some cancers, most notably lung, lower gastrointestinal and urological cancers more than half of patients are waiting longer than the 62-day target.

A report from the Public Accounts Committee last month warned that cancer waiting times are at their worst ever level and NHS England was unlikely to meet its recovery target of moving back to 85% treated within 62 days of referral.

The latest figures do show a slight improvement in two week wait times from the previous month with 86% of people seen by a specialist within a fortnight of urgent referral up from 81%.

The number of patients told by specialist if they had cancer or not within 28 days under the new faster diagnosis standard had also risen from 67% in January to 75% in February, the data shows.

It comes as the Department of Health and Social Care announced a rise in one-year survival rates for patients with cancer.

Between 2005 and 2020 the one-year survival index has risen by 9% to 74.6% according to NHS England figures.

For breast cancer the rate is now about 97% and for bowel cancer the survival rate is now above 80%, the figures suggest.

The Government said cancer diagnosis and treatment had remained a priority throughout the pandemic, with more than 7.3 million urgent referrals and over 1.6 million people receiving treatment between March 2020 and January 2023.

NHS England continues to prioritise those waiting longer than 62 days for first treatment, it said with progress being made on diagnostic tests.

Health Minister Helen Whately said: ‘These figures are highly encouraging and support those released earlier this year which show improved survival rates across almost all types of cancer.

‘They are evidence of the great strides being made by the NHS, scientists and our incredible cancer charities.’

She added: ‘We are laser focused on fighting cancer on all fronts – prevention, diagnosis, treatment, research and funding – and have opened over 94 ‘one stop shops’ so people can have quicker access to tests, scans and checks.

‘We are also taking a vaccine taskforce style approach to cancer research to develop new immune-based cancer therapies, including cancer vaccines, as well as producing a major conditions strategy.’

The Government has set a target of diagnosing 75% of cancer at an early stage by 2028.


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