London cancer treatment target missed again despite improvement, says MacMillan

A consultant studies a mammogram (file picture)  (PA)
A consultant studies a mammogram (file picture) (PA)

The target for people to receive their first cancer treatment within a month of diagnosis has been missed again in London despite an overall improvement in performance, according to MacMillan.

Analysis by the charity found that 94.7 per cent of people started treatment within 31 days of the decision to treat in the capital in February 2023.

It remains slightly below the NHS target of 96 per cent, which has only been met for 9 months out of 38 since 2020 amid the disruption to care caused by the pandemic, MacMillan said.

More than 3,600 people waited longer than two weeks to see a specialist in the capital, while 168 people waited longer than a month to get treatment in February alone.

A total of 3,191 people in London had their first treatment for cancer during the month, MacMillan said.

When adjusted for the number of working days in the month, first treatment activity was 8 per cent higher than the 2019 average as the NHS ramps up diagnostic activity in the wake of the pandemic.

Emma Tingley, Head of Partnerships in London at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “Despite the cost-of-living crisis and other pressures, performance in London is improving. Record numbers of people are coming into the NHS to receive cancer diagnosis and treatment due only to the sheer effort of will being shown by NHS staff.

“The UK Government needs to step up, support the workforce, help cancer services recover and improve agonising waiting times.”

Data obtained through Freedom of Information requests by the Labour Party last month found that patients had waited as long as 9 months to begin treatment in some London trusts.

It comes as Health Secretary Steve Barclay on Tuesday admitted that the Government had failed in its bid to clear the 18-month wait backlog for the NHS in England by April.

Ministers previously outlined plans for reducing backlogs caused by the Covid pandemic, including an aim to “eliminate” waits of more than 18 months for patients.

Mr Barclay told the Commons: “The plan builds on lots of other important work.

“Last year, we launched the elective recovery plan, which is making big strides to reduce the backlog brought about by Covid-19.

“And we eliminated nearly all waits of over two years by last July and now 18-month waits have decreased by over 90% since their peak in September 2021.”

In March, senior health figures told the Health Service Journal (HSJ) there would still be around 11,000 patients on the elective waiting list who have been waiting longer than 78 weeks at the start of April.