CANCER patients are being “put at risk” as they face worrying delays in their treatment, new research has found.
Figures from the BBC have shown that nearly three quarters of NHS services are failing to treat people quickly enough.
1 Cancer patients are facing worrying delays by ‘failing’ NHS trustsCredit: Getty – Contributor
In 85 per cent of cases, patients should start treatment within 62 days of an urgent referral by their GP.
But it was found that 94 out of 131 cancer services in England failed to do that in the year 2018-19.
Five years ago, that figure was just 36.
Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust was found to be the worst performer – with less than 61 per cent of patients seen within the target time frame.
Hospital bosses said that it was down to a surge in demand over its other services.
The trust said it had invested in extra staff and hoped to reach the target during the summer.
But cancer charities have warned that the delays are putting people’s lives at risk.
The worst waits: Patients whose treatment started within target 62 days
Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells 60.8%
Royal Wolverhampton 62.8%
Weston Area Health 67%
Southend University Hospital 67%
Bradford Hospitals 67.1%
University College London Hospitals 68.4%
Mid Essex Hospitals Services 68.5%
Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals 69.2%
East and North Hertfordshire 69.2%
East Kent Hospitals 70.7%
Figures from 2018-19
Moira Fraser-Pearce, of Macmillan Cancer Support, told the BBC it was clear the service was “too stretched”.
She added: “The longer people have to wait for diagnosis and get treatment, the longer it will impact them, their health and wellbeing and just getting through that experience.”
The figures show that more than 32,000 patients waited more than 62 days to start treatment in England.
A total of 63 trusts have gone from reaching their target five years ago to missing it.
In addition, the proportion of patients with suspected cancer who are seen within two weeks of urgent referral is at the lowest level since records began.
In April, just 89.9% were seen within a fortnight of an urgent GP referral, the lowest figure since records began in October 2009 and beneath the 93% target.
The top performers for cancer careThe following NHS Trusts were found to be the best at hitting targets and seeing patients within the desired time frame.
Kingston Hospital 95.9%
Frimley Health 93.6%
Mid Cheshire Hospitals 92.2%
Tameside and Glossop 90.3%
Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh 89.5%
Dartford and Gravesham 89.5%
Chelsea and Westminster 89.4%
Epsom and St Helier 88.8%
Barnsley Hospital 88.7%
Figures from 2018/19
Data from NHS England also shows a rise in the proportion of patients waiting for key tests such as MRI scans.
Some 3.6 per cent of people in April waited longer than six weeks for a diagnostic test such as a colonoscopy or an MRI – the highest level in a decade and triple the recommended proportion.
The data comes after MPs published a damning report earlier this week warning that patients are being put at risk due to long NHS waits.
Other data shows ambulance trusts struggling to hit targets and the four-hour A&E standard being repeatedly missed.
Siva Anandaciva, chief analyst at the King’s Fund think tank, said: “These figures show NHS performance is heading in the wrong direction.
“The new five-year funding deal for the NHS came with the explicit expectation that the NHS would get back on the path to delivering its core performance standards.
These figures show NHS performance is heading in the wrong directionSiva AnandacivaKing’s Fund think tank
“But today’s figures show there is still a long way to go, with record numbers of people stuck on hospital waiting lists.
“There are 4.4 million people waiting for consultant-led care and the proportion of patients who began their treatments or got diagnostic tests done within NHS time limits were both at their worst level for more than a decade.
“Cancer patients are also facing longer waits, with the proportion of people who are seen within two weeks following an urgent referral at the lowest level since records began.
“Despite the best efforts of NHS staff, it is hard to see how the NHS can get back to delivering its performance standards while it remains in the grip of a workforce crisis.
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“If the Government is serious about giving patients timely access to care, it must deliver on its promises to address staffing shortages and provide investment and reform for social care and preventative services.”
BMA consultants committee chairman Dr Rob Harwood said: “This latest set of NHS figures show a health service descending into an ever-deepening crisis and closer to a system unfit for purpose.
“Despite the BMA warning over a month ago of the crisis in cancer care, it is extremely concerning that we are continuing to see a rising trend in the number of patients forced to wait over two weeks to see a cancer specialist after their GP referral, further adding to their distress.”
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