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Cancer waiting times ‘worst on record’

In May over 3,100 people were waiting to start treatment

The NHS has experienced its worst financial year on record for cancer waiting times, figures show.

NHS England’s data for April 2018 to March 2019 reveals the time it takes people to start cancer treatment following an urgent referral from their GP has now been breached for 41 months in a row.

Just 79.1% of patients started treatment within 62 days of referral against the target of 85%. In addition, 92% had their first consultant appointment within two weeks of referral, against the target of 93%.

The 62-day wait target has been breached in every quarter since the last quarter of the financial year 2013–14. It is the first time that the two-week wait target has been breached both in a financial year and in every quarter of the year.

In May 2019, 3,111 people were waiting longer than two months to start cancer treatment after being urgently referred with suspected cancer by their GP.

Since January 2014, when the target was first breached, over 142,000 patients have waited longer than 62 days to start treatment after an urgent GP referral for suspected cancer.

Almost four in five NHS hospital trusts in England (76.59%) missed the 62-day target in May 2019, with 49 trusts — one in three — missing it by 10 percentage points or more.

Moira Fraser-Pearce, director of policy and campaigns at Macmillan Cancer Support, said the figures are a shocking reflection of a healthcare system in crisis as it struggles to meet unprecedented, and growing, demand despite the best efforts of hard-working NHS staff.

“The incoming Prime Minister must urgently prioritise supporting the overstretched NHS workforce. We need more people and a fully funded plan to ensure it is fit for purpose both now and in the future,” she argued.