NHS bosses call for cancer wait time targets to be reduced

The government have continuously failed to meet cancer wait time targets, prompting NHS professionals to demand they be scrapped as more cancers could be caught earlier.

Research which was published by Cancer Research UK last week highlights the dire need to do something about improving cancer wait time targets. At the moment, government targets are set at getting 75% of people who have had an urgent referral seen to within 28 days, but in June 2023 only 73.5% were diagnosed or had cancer ruled out.

clear hour glass with brown frame

Commenting on the research, Naser Turabi, Cancer Research UK’s director of evidence and implementation, said: ‘Despite the best efforts of NHS staff, it’s incredibly worrying that cancer waiting times in England are once again amongst the worst on record.’

The target, which was set in 2021, has only been met once, which was in February 2023. As a result, NHS bosses are campaigning to axe two thirds of NHS cancer waiting time targets in England.

At the moment the plan is being backed by leading cancer experts and charities but is currently under consultation (as it has been since last year) and an outcome is expected to be announced within a matter of days when Health Secretary, Steve Barclay, will deliver his final view.

This morning Mr Barclay told BBC Breakfast: ‘What we have is a consultation at the moment with leading clinical figures in the cancer world and with the cancer charities asking whether the checks we have got are driving the right outcomes in terms of cancer survival or whether there are better ways of measuring those.

‘This is something led by clinicians working in cancer – it is not something being imposed by the government.’

Ahead of the result, three targets are expected to be kept as opposed to the original nine which were laid out in 2021.

These include: 

  • Diagnosis of cancer within 28 of referral
  • Starting treatment within two months of an urgent referral
  • Starting treatment one month after a decision to treat cancer

An NHS England spokesperson has said: ‘By making sure more patients are diagnosed and treated as early as possible following a referral and replacing the outdated two-week wait target with the faster diagnosis standard already being used across the country, hundreds of patients waiting to have cancer ruled out or diagnosed could receive news faster.’

When Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, was appointed he made cutting waiting lists one of his top five priorities in England, but the overall number of patients waiting for cancer treatment in the country increased from 7.47 million in May to 7.57 million in June.

Image: Kenny Eliason

More on this topic: 

England is set to miss vital cancer waiting time target

NHS must fund treatment to boost cancer survival rates, charity warns


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