Almost 300,000 people were unable to see a cancer specialist within two weeks of an urgent referral between April and November 2021, according to new analysis (Peter Byrne/PA)
07 February 2022

Almost 300,000 unable to see cancer specialist promptly from April to November

07 February 2022

Almost 300,000 people were unable to see a cancer specialist within two weeks of an urgent referral between April and November, according to new analysis.

The research from information in the House of Commons library found there were 290,428 breaches of a maximum two-week wait target during those seven months.

According to the analysis commissioned by the Labour Party, that is the highest number of breaches in the 11 years since the two-week target was introduced.

Commenting on the figures, shadow health secretary Wes Streeting – who underwent cancer treatment last year – said cancer care “is in crisis”.

Labour MP Wes Streeting said cancer care ‘is in crisis'(Jacob King/PA) (PA Wire)

“As this new analysis shows, terrifyingly large numbers of people are waiting longer than they should to receive vital cancer care and treatment, with the insecurity of not knowing.

“I know from my own treatment how important an early diagnosis is when it comes to cancer.”

A statement from the Department of Health and Social Care said the pandemic had put the NHS under pressure.

Cancer diagnosis and treatment remains a top priority. The pandemic has put enormous pressures on the NHS, causing waiting lists to grow, but now most cancer services are back to or above pre-pandemic levels.

“Our record investment in the NHS includes an extra £2bn this year and £8bn over the next three years to cut waiting times, including through delivering an extra 9 million checks, scans and operations, making sure more patients get the treatment they need sooner.

“Last week the health and social care secretary declared a national war on cancer, with the launch of a call for evidence to inform a new 10-year plan to improve cancer care, speed up diagnosis and invest in innovative new treatments.”

The two-week maximum wait for urgent suspected cancer referrals was introduced in 2010. According to the analysis, the outcomes have been worsening since it was introduced.

It showed just over 45,000 breaches in both 2010-11 and 2011-12. By 2018-19 there were 179,260 breaches.

Mr Streeting said: “It’s a bit rich for the Tories to now declare a “war on cancer” when they spent the last twelve years disarming the NHS through mismanagement and underfunding.

“Labour will secure the NHS with the staff and modern technology required to give cancer patients the quality care they need, when they need it.”

It comes as The Daily Telegraph reports that the publication of the Government’s plan to deal with the NHS backlog was blocked by the Treasury.

It’s a bit rich for the Tories to now declare a “war on cancer” when they spent the last twelve years disarming the NHS through mismanagement and underfunding

The paper reported the National Recovery Plan was due to be announced on Monday but was delayed because Rishi Sunak’s department refused to sign off on it.

On Monday, Health Secretary Sajid Javid promised that one publicly announced part of that plan – the My Planned Care platform – would be available soon.

Mr Javid said the feature – which will allow patients to use the NHS website ahead of planned operations to see waiting times information for their trust – would be available later in February.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid revealed a plan for surgery waiting times to be available to patients online (James Manning/PA) (PA Wire)

Those due to have surgery will be able to access tailored information in a bid to have “increased transparency and information sharing”, the Department of Health (DH) said.

Mr Javid said: “At the height of the pandemic the NHS rightly focused on treating Covid-19 patients, but sadly it has meant waiting lists have risen – and the Covid backlog is going to keep rising.

“This platform, combined with our record funding to tackle the backlog and invest in innovative diagnosis and treatment will help us ensure access to life-changing care and support for people no matter who they are or where they live.”

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox