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Government misses cancer target as 22,000 people wait more than two months for treatment

More than 22,000 patients have been waiting over two months to begin urgent cancer treatment (File picture)  (PA Wire)
More than 22,000 patients have been waiting over two months to begin urgent cancer treatment (File picture) (PA Wire)

More than 22,000 patients have been waiting over two months to begin urgent cancer treatment, according to new figures.

In a written answer given to MPs on March 17, social care minister Helen Whately said that 22,282 people were waiting more than 62 days for treatment following a referral at the end of February.

The figure is more than 8,000 above the Government’s target to reduce the number of people on the waiting list to pre-pandemic levels of 14,000.

The NHS aims to treat 85 per cent of cancer patients within 62 days – but the standard has not been met since 2015.

Wes Streeting MP, Shadow Health Secretary, said: “The Conservatives promised a War on Cancer, but they spent the previous decade disarming the NHS.

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“I know from my own treatment that when it comes to cancer, there’s no time to wait. Cancer patients are paying the price for the Conservatives’ failure to train enough doctors and nurses.

“Labour will train 7,500 more doctors and 10,000 more nurses every year, so cancer is caught early and treated faster. We will pay for it by abolishing non-doms, because the NHS needs nurses more than the wealthiest need a tax break.”

The figures come after senior healthcare figures told the Health Service Journal (HSJ) that the NHS could miss its target for clearing the 18-month wait backlog by April.

Sources told the HSJ there will still be around 11,000 patients on the elective waiting list who have been waiting longer than 78 weeks at the start of April.

Last November, fewer than half of NHS trusts said they would meet key NHS recovery targets on waiting lists and cancer.

A poll of health trust leaders for NHS Providers found nearly half (46 per cent) strongly agreed or agreed they were on track to meet elective recovery and cancer targets by the end of the financial year.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “The number of people waiting 62 days for initial treatment has fallen 35 per cent since peaking in 2020 but we know there is more to do.

“Over 2.8 million urgent GP referrals were made in the 12 months to January 2023 – a record – and it is encouraging to have more people coming forward for vital checks.

“NHS England continues to actively support those trusts requiring the greatest help to cut cancer waiting lists and the department is working with NHS England to make further improvements.”