12,000 cancer patients waiting more than three months for treatment

The number of people waiting more than three months for cancer diagnosis and treatment in England has passed 12,000 for the first time, it has been reported.

The Health Service Journal (HSJ) said that NHS England figures for the week to January 1 showed that more than 4% of the 287,000 people on the Cancer Waiting Times Patient Tracking List had been referred more than 104 days previously.

This is up from 10,000 people waiting more than 104 days out of a total list of 313,000 in July and 8,791 out of 278,000 at the start of January last year, the HSJ added.

The HSJ said that while the number of patients waiting two months for cancer care had fallen, the number waiting three months had risen by a similar percentage.

It said that the Cancer Waiting Times Patient Treatment List data, seen by the HSJ, showed the number waiting 62 days fell 4.7% from 42,618 at the start of September to 40,627 at the beginning of January.

An NHS England spokeswoman said: “The NHS has been seeing and treating more people for cancer than ever before, and more cancers are being diagnosed at an early stage when it is easier to treat.

“The record demand we have seen in response to efforts to recover from the impact of the pandemic has inevitably had an impact, yet over 810,000 have started treatment for cancer since March 2020 – 94% within a month – and we are investing billions to expand diagnostic and treatment services to meet increased demand.”

The latest cancer waiting time figures will be published by NHS England on Thursday.

Last month’s data, covering October, showed that while there were some improvements on cancer there was a decline on the 62-day target for starting a first treatment.

Only 60.3% of the 14,425 cancer patients urgently referred by their GP had waited less than than two months by the time they started treatment – the second-lowest percentage on record and below the 85% target.

Elsewhere, 239,180 urgent cancer referrals were made by GPs in England in October, the highest number for that month in records going back to 2009.

This is down from 251,977 referrals in September, but the sixth highest number of monthly referrals on record.

Meanwhile, the proportion of cancer patients in England who saw a specialist within two weeks of being referred urgently by their GP increased from a record low of 72.6% in September to 77.8% in October, but still below the 93% target.