Patient safety

18.05.18

Government ‘letting down’ cancer patients, Labour warns

Patients are waiting up to 18 months for cancer treatment, according to figures obtained by Labour.

A Freedom of Information (FoI) request by the party revealed that two thirds of the trusts that responded had at least one patient waiting over six months.

This is despite current targets for treatment to be commenced within two months of referral - a target which has not been met for over two years.

The longest wait reported was a disturbing 541 days, with another patient waiting 446 days.

Labour has called this a reflection of the “abject failure” of the government to invest in the NHS.

Of the 88 trusts that responded to the FoI request, 69% reported that their longest waits had lengthened since 2010, with the average longest wait reaching 213 days - almost double the target of 62 days.

Jonathan Ashworth, shadow health and social care secretary, said: “The number of people needing cancer treatment has risen sharply in the past 10 years and the government has simply failed to increase availability of services at the rate required.”

He added: “The truth is that the brilliant efforts of NHS staff around the country to deliver the best for their patients are being hampered by tight NHS budgets.

“Years of under-funding and abject failure to invest in the frontline doctors and nurses we need means Theresa May is letting down cancer patients.”

Andrew Kaye, head of policy at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “These findings show that despite the tireless work of doctors and nurses, it appears that some cancer patients are still enduring shockingly long waits to start treatment.”

Explaining the impact that these delays can have on cancer sufferers, he added: “Long delays can put people under incredible stress at an already difficult time and could also mean that someone’s health could take a turn for the worse.

“Such figures underline how vital it is that the Government supports the NHS to improve waiting times this year.”

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “Cancer care has improved significantly in recent years, with around 7,000 people alive today who would not have been if mortality rates stayed the same as in 2010.”

They concluded: “Nobody should wait longer than necessary for treatment and, despite a 115% increase in referrals since 2010, the vast majority of people start treatment within 62 days - backed by our £600 million investment to improve cancer services.”

 

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