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NHS cancer waiting times show improvement but third of hospital trusts missing referral-to-treatment target

The latest monthly Official Statistics on waiting times for suspected and diagnosed cancer patients accessing NHS services, produced by NHS England, were released on 11th February 2016 according to the arrangements approved by the UK Statistics Authority.

Waiting Times for Cancer Services – December 2015

The key results for outpatient services and first definitive treatments show that, in England, during the period December 2015:

Two week wait:

  • 94.8% of people were seen by a specialist within two weeks of an urgent GP referral for suspected cancer (94.7% in November 2015)
  • 92.4% of people urgently referred for breast symptoms (where cancer was not initially suspected) were seen within two weeks of referral (93.5% in November 2015)

One month (31-day) wait from diagnosis to first definitive treatment:

  • 98.0% of people treated began first definitive treatment within 31 days of receiving their diagnosis, all cancers (97.7% in November 2015)
  • 98.8% of people treated for breast cancer began first definitive treatment within 31 days of receiving their diagnosis (98.9% in November 2015)
  • 99.1% of people treated for lung cancers began first definitive treatment within 31 days of receiving their diagnosis (99.2% in November 2015)
  • 97.6% of people treated for lower gastrointestinal cancers began first definitive treatment within 31 days of receiving their diagnosis (98.3% in November 2015) 
  • 96.1% of people treated for urological cancers began first definitive treatment within 31 days of receiving their diagnosis (95.4% in November 2015)
  • 98.0% of people treated for skin cancers began first definitive treatment within 31 days of receiving their diagnosis (96.8% in November 2015)

Two month (62-day) wait from urgent GP referral to first definitive
treatment:

  • 85.1% of people treated began first definitive treatment within 62 days of being urgently referred for suspected cancer by their​ GP, all cancers (83.5% in November 2015)
  • 96.5% of people treated for breast cancers received first definitive treatment within 62 days of being urgently referred for suspected cancer by their GP (94.4% in November 2015)
  • 75.4% of people treated for lung cancers received first definitive treatment within 62 days of being urgently referred for suspected cancer by their GP (75.4% in November 2015)
  • 77.4% of people treated for lower gastrointestinal cancers received first definitive treatment within 62 days of being urgently referred for suspected cancer by their GP (76.4% in November 2015)
  • 81.4% of people treated for urological cancers (excluding testicular cancer) received first definitive treatment within 62 days of being urgently referred for suspected cancer by their GP (79.0% in November 2015)
  • 95.6% of people treated for skin cancers received first definitive treatment within 62 days of being urgently referred for suspected cancer by their GP (95.2% in November 2015)

62-day wait extensions

  • 90.5% of patients began first definitive treatment within 62 days of a consultant’s decision to upgrade their priority, all cancers (90.8% in November 2015)
  • 93.9% of people began first definitive treatment for cancer within 62 days of referral from an NHS cancer screening service, all cancers (93.0% in November 2015)

The key results for waiting times for second or subsequent treatment show
that, in England, during the period December 2015:

31-day wait for subsequent treatment:

  • 96.5% of people began treatment within 31 days where the subsequent treatment was surgery (95.8% in November 2015)
  • 99.5% of people began treatment within 31 days where the subsequent treatment was an anti-cancer drug regimen (99.5% in November 2015)
  • 98.3% of people began treatment within 31 days where the subsequent treatment was a course of radiotherapy (97.8% in November 2015)

More analyses are published as part of this statistical release on the NHS England website:
http://www.england.nhs.uk/statistics/category/statistics/provider-waitingcancer/

Macmillan Cancer Support responds to UK cancer waiting times

Responding to the release of these statistics by NHS England1, Dr Fran Woodard, Director of Policy and Impact at Macmillan Cancer Support, says:

“It is encouraging to see that cancer waiting times targets, which outline the time it should take for people with cancer to begin treatment following an urgent GP referral, have been met in December 2015, for the first time in 20 months. But this is not yet a cause for celebration. Analysis by Macmillan Cancer Support shows that more than 20,0002 cancer patients were hit by distressing delays during 2015.

“Keeping a person with cancer waiting for access to life saving treatment can leave them feeling anxious and alone at an extremely difficult time. It’s simply not right to leave people in the lurch like this.

“While we know that healthcare professionals are working hard to support people when they have been diagnosed with cancer, there is clearly a problem in people starting their treatment swiftly. It’s possible that the NHS is struggling to assess people with complex needs, such as the estimated 70%3 of people with cancer who also have another condition like heart disease or mental health problems; this can result in delays.

“While today’s figures are an improvement on previous months, targets were only just met – with more than 1 in 3 (36%) hospital trusts still missing the 62-day target4 and a quarter (25%) of people with lung cancer having to wait more than two months to start treatment. We need to see greater improvements consistently over the following months if the NHS has any hope of handling increasing pressures and giving people affected by cancer the best possible support.”

References

1. NHS England.  Provider based cancer waiting times. 11 February 2016.  https://www.england.nhs.uk/statistics/provider-based-cancer-waiting-times-for-december-2015/

2. A wait of more than 62 days to begin their first definitive treatment following an urgent referral for suspected cancer from their GP.

3. An estimated 70% of people with cancer are living with at least one other LTC, compared to 55% of the general population of a similar age profile. Research undertaken by Monitor Deloitte, commissioned by Macmillan Cancer Support.
http://www.macmillan.org.uk/Documents/Press/Cancerandotherlong-termconditions.pdf

4. Based on provider organisations who gave first treatment to at least five people with cancer during December 2015.

Source: NHS England and Macmillan Cancer Support

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