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NHS Cancer Waiting Times Targets Missed

Over the past few years, the National Health Service (NHS) cancer services have experienced increasing pressure due to various factors. One of the primary indicators of this mounting strain is the cancer waiting times report, demonstrating if the healthcare system is efficiently meeting its objectives for timely cancer diagnoses and treatments.

Prompt testing and diagnosis of cancer, followed by rapid treatment initiation, are critical for reducing the stress and anxiety experienced by patients. Furthermore, early detection and intervention contribute significantly to successful treatment outcomes, as treating cancer in its initial stages is more likely to yield a positive prognosis when it is neither too large nor widespread. Therefore, efficient cancer diagnosis and treatment form the foundation of effective patient care.

Four crucial targets reflect the performance of cancer services. These benchmarks provide valuable insights into the efficiency, accessibility and overall quality of care for patients.

In its Covid recovery plan released in February 2022, NHS England pledged to address the significant backlog of individuals suspected of having cancer who are experiencing lengthy delays in starting treatment or undergoing testing to receive a definitive diagnosis.

A goal was set to reduce the number of patients waiting over two months, or 62 days, to pre-pandemic levels of 14,000 by March 2023.

However, as shown in the latest available data, recently highlighted in an article published by Cancer Research UK, many of these key cancer diagnosis and treatment targets have been missed.

What was shown in the latest NHS report? 

The latest available data for these critical metrics in England dates to March 2023, revealing the state of cancer services during this period. These results serve as a useful point of comparison with previous measurements, allowing the assessment of the developments and improvements in cancer care within the NHS. Here are some of the latest results in England for March 2023:

  • Urgent suspected cancer referrals standard: Target Missed

83.9% of people were seen by a specialist within 2 weeks of an urgent suspected cancer referral. The target is 93%.

  • The faster diagnosis standard: Target Missed

74.2% of people were diagnosed, or had cancer ruled out, within 28 days of an urgent referral in March 2023. The target is 75% and was introduced in 2021, but has only been met once since then, in February 2023.

  • The 62-day standard: Target Missed

Only 63.5% of people in England received their diagnosis and started their first treatment within 2 months (or 62 days) of an urgent referral in March 2023. This is well below the target of 85% and this target has not been met since 2015, with a record low in January 2023.

In response to the latest figures, Michelle Mitchell, Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK said:

“Though it’s promising to see some progress, all cancer waiting time targets in England have been missed yet again. Behind today’s numbers are patients who are anxious about their future and hard-working NHS staff who are stretched to capacity.

The solution to tackling these delays lies in the hands of the Government who must show leadership and publish the long-awaited workforce plan for England. Without a fully-funded strategy to recruit, train and retain the staff we need, it will be difficult to improve cancer survival for all.”

You can read the full article here:

Cancer waiting times: Latest updates and analysis

Delayed Cancer Diagnosis Claims

These figures show that sadly, cancer diagnosis, referral and treatment delays are common due to some of the current issues within the NHS. However, no one should experience a delay that impacts negatively on you or your loved one’s health.

It is important to notify your NHS or private healthcare provider promptly in respect of time-sensitive healthcare issues.

Unfortunately, some patients experience excessive waiting times for a diagnosis or referral and commencement of treatment. If this applies to you and you think this has impacted on the outcome of your prognosis, or you think you have a claim related to a loved one’s death, contact our medical negligence team for a no-obligation consultation.

At Bridge McFarland LLP, our specialist medical negligence solicitors assist people with claims for failures of care and treatment received under the NHS and private healthcare sector.

To speak to our team, please call 0800 987 8800 or email