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Longest waits for cancer care are rising, says Labour

Figures highlight pressure on services, but government says most patients are treated within target

The Labour party claims new figures show the government is losing control of cancer care, with waiting times for treatment rising in recent years.

The opposition party says research it carried out using Freedom of Information (FoI) requests found one patient waited 541 days for treatment following a GP referral in 2017, against a target of 62 days. Another waited 254 days for treatment following a decision to treat, for which the target is 31 days.

FoI requests made to acute and community health trusts in England found the trusts average longest wait had risen to 213 days, 16 days more than in 2010.

  • RELATED:

The Labour party claims new figures show the government is ‘losing control of cancer care’, with waiting times for treatment rising in recent years.


Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth: ‘Some patients waiting more than a year.’
Picture: WENN Ltd/Alamy Stock Photo

The opposition party says research it carried out using Freedom of Information (FoI) requests found one patient waited 541 days for treatment following a GP referral in 2017, against a target of 62 days. Another waited 254 days for treatment following a decision to treat, for which the target is 31 days.

FoI requests made to acute and community health trusts in England found the trusts’ average longest wait had risen to 213 days, 16 days more than in 2010.

All but two of the trusts that replied (58 out of 88) had at least one patient who waited more than the 62-day target for treatment. About two thirds (66%) had at least one patient who waited longer than six months. 

However, the government said cancer care and mortality rates have improved significantly in the same period, and most patients begin treatment within the set target.

More people needing treatment

Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth said: ‘The number of people needing cancer treatment has risen sharply in the past ten years and the government has failed to increase availability of services at the rate required.

'Now we know that some patients are waiting a year or more just to get treatment. It's simply not good enough.’

Macmillan Cancer Support head of policy Andrew Kaye said: ‘These findings show that despite the tireless work of doctors and nurses, it appears that some cancer patients are still enduring shockingly long waits to start treatment.

'Long delays can put people under incredible stress at an already difficult time and can also mean that someone's health can take a turn for the worse.'

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: 'Cancer care has improved significantly in recent years, with around 7,000 people alive today who would not have been if mortality rates stayed the same as in 2010.

'Despite a 115% increase in referrals since 2010, the vast majority of people start treatment within 62 days.'


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