Cuts blamed as NHS cancer waiting time targets missed for second quarter in a row

 

Health Correspondent

The NHS in England is experiencing its worst ever long-term slump in performance against key cancer waiting times, leaving thousands of patients waiting weeks for treatment for suspected cancers, according to new figures.

Fewer than 85 per cent of patients with a suspected cancer were referred within 62 days between April and June – the second quarterly target breach in a row.

The breach means that in the first half of 2014 nearly 10,000 patients in England had to wait more than two months for specialist treatment after being told by their GP that they had a suspected cancer – a huge rise of 27 per cent on the same period last year.

Labour said that the “agonising waits” were a clear signal that the NHS was struggling to cope with demand and warned that lives were being put at risk.

Overall 84.1 per cent of patients were seen within 62 days in the first quarter of 2014/15, according to new NHS England statistics. The previous quarter, when 84.4 per cent of patients were seen in time, was the NHS’ first quarterly breach of a target which is considered to be a key measure of the health service’s overall performance.

More people than ever are being diagnosed and treated for cancer. The number of patients who are being seen within the 62-day target has increased by 28 per cent in just five years. In the past year, there has also been a tenfold increase in the number of hospitals failing to see patients within two weeks.

The Department of Health and NHS England say that public awareness of cancer is growing thanks to charity awareness campaigns and even cancer-related storylines on Eastenders.

But while praising staff for referring and treating more patients, NHS England also admitted that pressures on waiting times were growing.

A taskforce consisting of the hospital watchdogs Monitor and the Trust Development Authority has been set up to address the target breaches.

However, Labour’s shadow Public Health minster Luciana Berger said that the NHS was heading “in the wrong direction”.

“David Cameron claimed his NHS reorganisation would improve cancer care. The reality is that he has in fact made it worse,” she said. “Families across England are facing longer, agonising waits for treatment and experts are warning that lives will be put at risk.”

The rise in cancer diagnoses is not surprising given the UK’s ageing and growing population, but the continued breaches of treatment targets have raised serious questions over the NHS’ ability to cope with the country’s burden of cancer, with existing resources.

The NHS in England is facing a £30bn budget deficit within the next five to six years, after the longest Government spending squeeze in the health service’s history. So far none of the political parties has committed to increased investment in the health service to ease pressures after the general election.

Mike Hobday, director of policy and research at Macmillan Cancer Support said that the latest breaches were “simply not good enough”.

“The current system simply isn’t working and people with cancer are being badly let down,” he said. “The Government has been very clear about its ambition to ensure cancer is diagnosed earlier and to improve the chances of surviving the disease across the country. However, these figures show that we’ve still got a long way to go. We have some of the poorest survival rates for cancer in Europe and Macmillan is calling on all the political parties to prioritise cancer ahead of the next general election.”

Sean Duffy, NHS England’s clinical director for cancer said that while the vast majority of patients were still being seen within a month, more needed to be done.

“It is imperative that we focus on maintaining waiting times standards as demand for care increases,” he said.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “We expect the NHS to look urgently at any dips in local performance and take action to make sure all patients get access to cancer treatment as quickly as possible.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
tv
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Extras
indybest
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Primary teaching roles in Ipswich

    £21552 - £31588 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education re...

    Science teachers needed in Norwich

    £21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Science teachers requ...

    Semi Senior Accountant - Music

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A successful, Central London bas...

    English teachers required in Lowestoft

    £21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Qualified English tea...

    Day In a Page

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits