Responding to the cancer waiting times statistics for December 2015 released today by NHS England[i], Dr Fran Woodard, Director of Policy and Impact at Macmillan Cancer Support, says:

“It is encouraging to see that cancer waiting times targets, which outline the time it should take for people with cancer to begin treatment following an urgent GP referral, have been met in December 2015, for the first time in 20 months. But this is not yet a cause for celebration. Analysis by Macmillan Cancer Support shows that more than 20,000[ii] cancer patients were hit by distressing delays during 2015.

“Keeping a person with cancer waiting for access to life saving treatment can leave them feeling anxious and alone at an extremely difficult time. It’s simply not right to leave people in the lurch like this.

“While we know that healthcare professionals are working hard to support people when they have been diagnosed with cancer, there is clearly a problem in people starting their treatment swiftly. It’s possible that the NHS is struggling to assess people with complex needs, such as the estimated 70%[iii] of people with cancer who also have another condition like heart disease or mental health problems; this can result in delays.

“While today’s figures are an improvement on previous months, targets were only just met – with more than 1 in 3 (36%) hospital trusts still missing the 62-day target[iv] and a quarter (25%) of people with lung cancer having to wait more than two months to start treatment. We need to see greater improvements consistently over the following months if the NHS has any hope of handling increasing pressures and giving people affected by cancer the best possible support.”

[1] NHS England.  Provider based cancer waiting times. 11 February 2016.  https://www.england.nhs.uk/statistics/provider-based-cancer-waiting-times-for-december-2015/

iiA wait of more than 62 days to begin their first definitive treatment following an urgent referral for suspected cancer from their GP.

iii An estimated 70% of people with cancer are living with at least one other LTC, compared to 55% of the general population of a similar age profile. Research undertaken by Monitor Deloitte, commissioned by Macmillan Cancer Support.

http://www.macmillan.org.uk/Documents/Press/Cancerandotherlong-termconditions.pdf

iv Based on provider organisations who gave first treatment to at least five people with cancer during December 2015.