March 23, 2023

More than seven in 10 NHS trusts have not seen patients urgently referred for suspected cancer within two weeks, new analysis shows.

The NHS standard is that 93 per cent of people should see a consultant within 14 days of an urgent referral from their GP with suspected cancer.

The number not meeting the official target is the highest in at least three years, according to analysis by PA.

It found that 84 of the 117 trusts in England for which there was complete data from August 2019 to August 2022, did not meet the target every year on average.

This is nearly three quarters (72 percent) of the 117 trusts, including three that have never reached the target in the three years: University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and North Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust.

It comes after official statistics revealed last week that nearly 40,000 cancers went undiagnosed during the first year of Covid

In August alone, more than 60,000 people had to wait more than two weeks to see a cancer specialist after a GP referral in August alone, another new analysis from the Liberal Democrats shows.

People across the country are facing a zip code lottery, with some trusts seeing only a third of patients within the two-week target, while other trusts never miss the target, according to the Daily Mail survey.

Trusts that have failed to meet the target in more than two years include West Suffolk, which last reached it in December 2019, and Leeds Teaching Hospitals, which PA last reached the standard in March 2020.

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Princess Alexandra Hospital in Essex, Worcestershire Acute Hospitals and Oxford University Hospitals have not met the target as of May 2020.

North-West Anglia, Norfolk & Norwich University Hospitals, United Lincolnshire Hospitals and Country Durham & Darlington all met the target for just one of the 37 months.

Naser Turabi, Director of Evidence and Implementation at Cancer Research UK, said: ‘Any cancer waiting time target that is missed is unacceptable.

1666741258 114 70 of confidential counselors MISS crucial 2 week cancer target

1666741258 114 70 of confidential counselors MISS crucial 2 week cancer target

In August, NHS England conducted a record number of cancer checks.  However, the graph shows that the health service still failed to reach an important target to start treatment of the disease within two months of an urgent referral (red line) from or confirmed (blue lines)

In August, NHS England conducted a record number of cancer checks.  However, the graph shows that the health service still failed to reach an important target to start treatment of the disease within two months of an urgent referral (red line) from or confirmed (blue lines)

In August, NHS England conducted a record number of cancer checks. However, the graph shows that the health service still failed to reach an important target to start treatment of the disease within two months of an urgent referral (red line) from or confirmed (blue lines)

NHS England figures show five-year survival rates for various cancers.  Rates are highest for lung, stomach, and colon cancer

NHS England figures show five-year survival rates for various cancers.  Rates are highest for lung, stomach, and colon cancer

NHS England figures show five-year survival rates for various cancers. Rates are highest for lung, stomach, and colon cancer

Lockdown’s Secondary Cancer Time Bomb

Nearly 40,000 cancers went undiagnosed during Covid’s first year, according to official statistics last week that exposed the “true and catastrophic impact” of the pandemic.

Just 290,000 people in England were told they had cancer in 2020, about a tenth less than a year earlier – the biggest drop since registration began half a century ago. It was also the least annual diagnosis in ten years.

It means 100 fewer Britons a day were told they had cancer, which equates to one every 13 minutes – raising fears of a cancer time bomb. It is thought that half of the missed tumors are prostate and breast cancer.

The NHS prioritizing Covid care, a lack of face-to-face appointments and the public avoiding the health service for fear of contracting the virus or increasing pressure from the NHS are all to blame for the downturn.

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Top experts warned today that the figure is just the ‘tip of the iceberg’ as the diagnosis delay is ‘still there and growing’, with tens of thousands facing ‘painful’ delays.

Ongoing Covid disruption means more Britons are living with missed and untreated serious cancers, which will increase cancer deaths within years, doctors warned.

“However, this target should be a minimum standard. The fact that it’s not being met now just shows how tense our health service has become.

‘We expect the number of people who go to a doctor for suspected cancer to fluctuate throughout the year, but the NHS needs to be prepared for that.

“It’s also important to remember that it’s better to be on a waiting list than sitting at home with symptoms.

‘Listen to your body – if you feel something isn’t right, see your GP and go ahead and make an appointment. Your doctor wants to hear from you.’

The data shows that the top-performing trusts are Calderdale & Huddersfield, East Kent Hospitals University and Portsmouth Hospitals University, which have never missed their operating benchmark of 93 percent.

Medway Trust has consistently met its target since May 2020, while Birmingham Women’s & Children’s Trust has been hitting it every month since August 2020.

Minesh Patel, head of policy at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: ‘Even at that early stage of the cancer trajectory, there’s a tremendous amount of pressure, let alone when you’re being treated, and it’s really worrisome for one’s prognosis.

“If someone starts treatment later, the outcome can be more concerning in terms of their ability to survive their cancer, to have minimal after-effects after a treatment.”

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‘This is about surviving and giving people the best opportunities and ultimately improving their quality of life.’

Liberal Democratic Health spokesman Daisy Cooper MP said the “grim zip code lottery” when it comes to trusts’ cancer target performance was “a national scandal.”

“The evidence tells us how crucial it is to get a cancer diagnosis early, but thousands of people wait far too long. The sheer number of people waiting in suspense is completely unacceptable.

“The government must prioritize resources to reduce backlogs, reduce dangerously long waiting times for ambulances and solve the health care zip code lottery.”

An NHS spokesperson said: ‘To fully recover from the pandemic, GPs are now referring 20 per cent more patients each day than before the pandemic, which is good news as it means more people will be checked and diagnosed sooner.

“The NHS is investing billions to expand diagnostic treatment capacity to meet this additional demand, and has written to the longest-delayed trusts asking them to urgently develop plans to reduce the wait for cancer – so that they can redesign care to keep up with increased demand. ‘