20 May 2015
**Macmillan Cancer Support calls for government action as cancer waiting times continue to deteriorate**
The NHS in England has once again missed a key cancer waiting times target and performance against other targets continues to deteriorate, according to official figures published today and latest analysis by Macmillan Cancer Support.
The target for patients to begin treatment within two months of an urgent referral for suspected cancer (62-day target) has now been breached for the whole of 2014/15, and during the year the target for patients to see a specialist within two weeks of an urgent referral (two-week-wait target) was breached for six key cancer types.
Rapid access to tests and treatment is vital, as well as support after treatment, if more people are to survive their cancer and live in good health. The Conservative party election manifesto pledged to improve cancer survival rates and the charity is today calling on the new government to deliver on their promises.
This is now the fifth quarter in a row where the 62-day target for cancer has been missed, with 75 trusts failing to meet the target and more than 5,000 people with cancer left waiting more than two months for potentially life-saving treatment in this most recent quarter.
Figures highlight concerning variations in waiting times for cancer types. People with a lower gastrointestinal cancer (such as colorectal cancer) are likely to wait longer for treatment, with only 72% of people with one of these types of cancer being seen within two months.
Hayley Chikhaoui, 43, from London was diagnosed with a soft tissue sarcoma in 2009. She says:
“I was told that it was cancer in October but I had to wait until February before I was able to have the surgery. I was at one hospital and I needed the referral for surgery from the secretary of the consultant. I kept calling and putting pressure on them. The waiting was really frustrating because it didn’t seem to be for any reason. It meant that I didn’t know how to talk to people about it as I was too angry and emotional. Being diagnosed with cancer is stressful enough without having to worry that you’ve been forgotten.”
Today’s figures also show the cancer waiting times target for patients to see a specialist within two weeks of an urgent referral for suspected cancer has been breached again for suspected acute leukaemia and upper gastrointestinal cancers. In 2014/15 there were breaches of the two-week-wait target for five key cancer types for the first time in at least three years.
Overall, 24 trusts (around one in seven) are failing to meet the two-week-wait target for all cancers combined. This is an increase of 10 trusts from the same period in the previous year. More than 2,000 people were forced to wait for at least four weeks- at least twice as long as they should have waited - to see a specialist, including more than 140 women with suspected breast cancer and almost 800 people with suspected GI cancer (such as colorectal and stomach cancer).
Dr Fran Woodard, Director of Policy and Research at Macmillan Cancer Support, says:
“Once again we see an unacceptable and recurring problem within our healthcare system as the cancer waiting times target has been breached for the fifth time in a row. People with cancer are having to wait too long for access to treatment and their lives are being put at risk - this simply cannot continue
“Today’s figures are yet another warning sign that cancer in this country is not fixed. The NHS is under pressure and there is an urgent need for a coordinated effort across the system to address these delays.
“The Conservative party was very clear about its ambition to improve cancer care and support in this country and Macmillan Cancer Support is now calling on the new government to clearly set out how it will implement its commitments to cancer care and show that cancer remains a top priority in this parliament.”
For more information on Macmillan’s General Election campaign visit www.macmillan.org.uk/GE2015
For further information, please contact:
Cora Bauer, Senior Press Officer, Macmillan Cancer Support
0207 091 2016 (out of hours 07801 307068)
Notes to Editors:
1. NHS England. Provider based cancer waiting times. 20 May 2015. http://www.england.nhs.uk/statistics/statistical-work-areas/cancer-waiting-times/
2. Based on breaching the target for at least one quarter during 2014/15
3. The number of trusts failing to meet the 62-day target is based on providers who gave first treatment to at least five people with cancer during the quarter.
4. The five cancer types are suspected acute leukaemia, breast cancer, children’s cancer, skin cancer and sarcoma. The target has also been breached for suspected upper gastrointestinal target in 2014/15, but this was also previously breached in one quarter in the past three years (Q1 2012-2013).
5. The number of trusts failing to meet the two-week-wait target is based on providers who have at least 5 people with suspected cancer seen by a specialist during the quarter.
About Macmillan Cancer Support
When you have cancer, you don’t just worry about what will happen to your body, you worry about what will happen to your life. Whether it’s concerns about who you can talk to, planning for the extra costs or what to do about work, at Macmillan we understand how a cancer diagnosis can take over everything.
That’s why we’re here. We provide support that helps people take back control of their lives. But right now, we can’t reach everyone who needs us. We need your help to make sure that people affected by cancer get the support they need to face the toughest fight of their life. No one should face cancer alone, and with your support no one will.
To get involved, call 0300 1000 200 today. And please remember, we’re here for you too. If you’d like support, information or just to chat, call us free on 0808 808 00 00 (Monday to Friday, 9am–8pm) or visit macmillan.org.uk