NHS England breast cancer wait times are ‘deeply worrying’

Pharmaceutical News

NHS England cancer waiting times data from January shows that all targets for breast cancer have been missed, including two week wait targets as well as 31 day and 62 day targets.

The two week wait target for people referred with suspected breast cancer was not met, with 66.7% of patients being seen within two weeks in January 2021 compared to the 93% target.

In addition, the two week wait target for breast symptoms where cancer is not initially suspected was also missed, with 62.7% of patients being seen within two weeks.

This reflects a decrease from January 2020, when 83.6% of patients were seen within two weeks.

Referrals also decreased from January 2020 to January 2021 – 14,299 and 12,437 respectively.

The 31 day target of 96% of patients starting their first treatment within 31 days of diagnosis was also missed for breast cancer – 93.9% – and also for cancer overall – 94.0%.

In addition, the 62 day target of 85% of patients starting treatment within 62 days of urgent GP referral was also missed for breast cancer and cancer overall – 79.8% and 71.2% respectively.

“Earlier this week we revealed that almost 11,000 people in the UK could be living with undiagnosed breast cancer due to disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, with all waiting time targets for breast cancer being missed in January it’s deeply worrying that the pandemic continues to take its toll,” said Delyth Morgan, chief executive at Breast Cancer Now.

“We know the NHS is working tirelessly to safely diagnose and treat people with breast cancer, but with immense pressures on the chronically under-resourced imaging and diagnostic workforce the government needs to take urgent action to invest long-term and tackle the rapidly growing crisis facing the cancer workforce.

“It’s crucial that women contact their GP if they find any new or unusual breast changes – while most breast changes won’t be cancer, on the occasions it is, early diagnosis increases the chance of successful treatment,” she added.

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