England is set to miss vital cancer waiting time target

New research has revealed less than 3% of NHS trusts have managed to hit targets of treating cancer patients within two months of urgent referral.

Patients are being warned of a ‘shocking gap in cancer care’, as new figures reveal fewer than 3% of England’s NHS trusts met a key waiting-times target last year for cancer patients to be treated within two months of an urgent GP referral.

person holding black tablet computer

Research shows that out of the 125 hospital trusts in England that were examined, only 2.4% hit the standard of treating 85% of patients within 62 days after a critical referral in 2022. Some trusts have not performed at that standard for at least eight years.

In February 2022, the government published their Covid-19 recovery plan which stated NHS England trusts would be committed to tackling the substantial backlog of people with suspected cancer who are facing long waits to either start treatment or be tested and receive the all-clear.

However, Dame Cally Palmer, Chief Executive of The Royal Marsden and has held a dual role as National Cancer Director for NHS England since 2015, told MPs a spike in demand meant NHS England would miss the March 2023 target and said a new target of March 2024 is now being discussed with ministers.

Although, remaining optimistic, Dame Cally told the Health and Social care Committee: ‘We’ve made very significant progress, the backlog was at an all-time high of around 34,000 last summer. Last week it was 23,500, so we’ve dropped by about 10,000 but there’s still further to go.’

The new figures – which had been revealed after a House of Commons Public Accounts Committee Report, published last week, reported that waiting times were at their worst recorded level – show more than 66,000 patients were forced to wait more than two months for their first treatment last year after referral.

Daisy Cooper, the Liberal Democrats Health Spokesperson, said: ‘Now the situation is so bad that barley any hospitals are able to provide patients with the treatment they need on time.

‘Ministers have consistently failed to plan ahead or provide adequate funding, while taking patients and NHS staff for granted. There is a shocking gap in cancer care from one aread to another.’

The backlog of cancer patients that are waiting to be seen or begin treatment is said to have been caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the current pressures the NHS are facing. However, Ms Cooper has claimed the number of hospital trusts that were struggling to meet cancer targets was reducing before the pandemic struck.

The research, by the House of Commons Library and commissioned by the Lib Dems, exposes the hospital trusts that left patients waiting longer than two months after being referred for treatment.

These include: Leeds Teaching Hospitals, North Middlesex University Hospital, Royal Wolverhampton and University Hospitals Birmingham.

Photo by National Cancer Institute


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Help us break the news – share your information, opinion or analysis
Back to top