8 March 2017
NHS has missed cancer treatment targets for three years
Macmillan Cancer Support says ‘dismal anniversary’ is yet another sign of pressure on the NHS
More cancer patients in England are facing delays for their treatment than three years ago, with 1 in 6 (17%) now waiting beyond the official NHS target[i], according to Macmillan Cancer Support.
Analysis by the charity of NHS cancer waiting times data, reveals that:
- Over the past three years, the number of people waiting longer than 62 days has risen steadily (year-on-year rise) from 20,534 in 2014 to 25,157 in 2016.
- This marks three years since performance against the target stopped keeping pace with the increase in referrals for cancer. The number of people being urgently referred for cancer has increased steadily year-on-year[ii]. Until January 2014, the NHS was able to consistently keep pace with demand and the 62-day target was almost always met.
- The number of patients waiting too long for treatment in 2016 has almost doubled in the past five years[iii]. In total, more than 100,000 people have waited beyond the NHS’ target of 62 days in this time.
This is having a knock-on effect on patients. Waiting for treatment can be extremely distressing and experts believe it could affect a patient’s chance of survival. Previous Macmillan research shows that nearly two thirds (64%) of people recently diagnosed with cancer in England have experienced feelings of anxiety, fear or depression whilst waiting for their treatment to start.[iv].
Macmillan says treatment delays and cancelled operations are evidence of a system under pressure and a struggling cancer workforce.
The charity is concerned that despite welcome investment the Department of Health has not provided an up-to-date figure for the total amount of money spent on cancer care in England. Without this, it is difficult to understand whether funding is keeping pace with demand and the government’s plan to transform cancer services is achievable.
Ahead of the Budget, Macmillan wants the Government to continue to invest in improving cancer services. But it is calling on the Department of Health to publish an updated total amount of spending on cancer services so that the cancer community can understand whether the NHS has the resources it needs.
Dr Fran Woodard, Executive Director of Policy and Impact at Macmillan Cancer Support, says:
“This dismal “anniversary” of breached cancer waiting times is yet another sign of pressure on the NHS. Everyone is suffering. Patients are waiting too long for treatment and it’s leaving them anxious and depressed. Many healthcare professionals are feeling overstretched with their morale on the floor.
“Ahead of the Budget we are hoping the Government continues to show its commitment to investing in improving cancer services. But we also need to know what is being spent on cancer services right now so we know if there will be enough money in the pot to deal with the increasing demand. That’s why we’re calling on the Department of Health to publish its current spend on cancer services.”
Jim Peters, 61, from Buckinghamshire, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in December 2013. He says:
“I don’t know what was more distressing, finding out I had cancer or the agonising months waiting for the tests to get to that point.
“I was suffering increasing pain and discomfort, and the impact of these delays meant I was also in a complete state of turmoil and worry – and so was my partner. It was a horrible, emotionally draining time for both of us and it’s not an experience you recover from easily.
“The system let me down and I truly believe that if I hadn’t had these delays in treatment my cancer wouldn’t have spread. I’d be looking at a much brighter and longer future than the one I’m facing now.”
For further information, please contact:
Jess Owen, Media & PR Officer, Macmillan Cancer Support
0207 091 2407 (out of hours 07801 307068)
Notes to Editors:
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
[i] Refers to the 62-day cancer waiting times target. NHS England. Cancer waiting times - National Time Series Oct 2009 – December 2016 (Provider based) https://www.england.nhs.uk/statistics/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2015/02/Cancer-Waiting-Times-National-Time-Series-Oct-2009-December-2016-Provider-based.xlsx (Accessed February 2017)
[ii] As reference i. The number of people referred through the urgent two-week-wait referral pathway has increased at a steady rate since at least 2010:
- 2010: 974,922
- 2011: 1,066,925
- 2012: 1,204,703
- 2013: 1,302,835
- 2014: 1,500,336
- 2015: 1,680,747
- 2016: 1,831,730
[iii] The total number of people who waited for more than 62 days was 1.8 times greater in 2016 compared with 2011 (25,157 compared with 14,201)
[iv] Macmillan Cancer Support/YouGov survey of 1,020 adults in the UK with a previous cancer diagnosis. Fieldwork was undertaken between 5th and 14th October 2016. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of the living with cancer population. Results quoted are based on the 184 respondents in England diagnosed within the last two years.
Respondents were asked to tick anyof the following that they experienced while they were waiting for treatment to start:
- The symptoms of my cancer got worse
- The symptoms of another health condition got worse
- I developed new symptoms related to my cancer
- None of the above
- Prefer not to say
64% refers to the proportion who ticked at least one of the first three options.