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Lives at risk as cancer patients face longest NHS waits on record for treatment, experts warn

CANCER patients are facing record NHS delays – with one in four now waiting too long for life-saving care.

Experts warn overwhelmed hospitals are in “crisis” as A&E delays also hit an all-time high.

Getty – Contributor Cancer patients' lives are at risk as they face the longest waits for life-saving care, new NHS figures show

Official stats reveal the NHS has missed a flagship cancer treatment target for more than 1,000 days.

More than 85 per cent of patients should start receiving therapy within 62 days of being referred by their GP.

But in January just 76.2 per cent were seen on time – the worst performance since records began in 2009.

The last time the standard was met was in December 2015.

Lives are at risk, charities warn

Cancer charities said 127,000 Brits had been being put at risk by the delays.

Dr Fran Woodard, from Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “Behind the numbers are real people who tell us how delays cause real anxiety for them and their loved ones at a time when they are already trying to deal with the many worries cancer is throwing their way.”

A spokesperson for NHS England said: “More people than ever before are coming forward for cancer checks, with a quarter of a million more people getting checked for cancer this year and thousands more being treated within the two month target.”

A&E waits also worst on record

The NHS also missed other key hospital targets, with A&E waits now the worst on record.

Casualty wards should treat at least 95 per cent of patients within four hours.

But the figure fell to 84.2 per cent last month – the lowest performance since 2004.

Time to scrap 4-hour wait target

The damning figures were revealed just days after NHS bosses announced they want to scrap the flagship A&E target.

Professor John Appleby, chief economist at the Nuffield Trust, said: “These figures are the worst performance against the four-hour A&E target since records started and the number of patients waiting on trolleys is creeping above levels seen during the ‘Beast from the East’ storm last February.”

The Royal College of Surgeons warned 227,569 patients have been waiting more than six months for a planned procedure, such as a hip op – with long delays up by a third in a year.

Currently there are 4.16 million people waiting to start treatment.

In January, 86.7 per of patients were seen within 18 weeks, against a 92 per cent target.

Professor Derek Alderson, president of the RCS, said: “The backlog of patients waiting to start treatment continues to grow.

“There are now over 100,000 more patients waiting longer than 18 weeks to start treatment when compared with the same time last year.”

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A Department of Health spokesman said an extra £33.9 billion annually was being pumped into the NHS by 2024.

He said: “Winter is always challenging, but in the face of record emergency admissions, dedicated and hardworking staff ensured more than 58,760 patients were seen within four hours every day last month – that’s 3,484 more patients a day than in February 2018.”

 

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