Tim Gardner, Senior Policy Fellow, at the Health Foundation said:

‘Although cancer outcomes in the UK have improved since 2000, survival rates continue to lag behind many comparable countries and we know that late diagnosis is a big factor in this. More people are being urgently referred with suspected cancer by their GPs, but the proportion waiting for diagnosis and treatment continues to rise.

‘Today's data suggests the health service's capacity to diagnose and treat those patients promptly has not kept pace with need and the 14 day wait target from GP referral for suspected cancer to first outpatient appointment has been missed for a whole quarter for the first time since records began in 2008/09. 

‘This is concerning at a time of the year when the NHS should have some respite from winter pressures, and there is a similar picture of longer waits for emergency care and planned surgery as demand exceeds capacity. These latest figures are a stark reminder of the tough choices faced by the government on where to best invest the money from the recent funding settlement.’

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The data from NHS England in April to June 2018 shows:

  • 91.4% of patients with suspected cancer urgently referred by a GP were seen within 14 days. This was below the target of 93% for the first time, and the worst quarterly performance against this target since records began in 2008/09.
  • 80.8% of patients with suspected cancer started treatment within 62 days of being urgently referred by a GP. This was below the target of 85% for the 18th consecutive quarter, and the worst quarterly performance against this target since records began in 2008/09.
  • 88.6% of patients referred by an NHS cancer screening programme started treatment within 62 days, below the target of 90% for the second consecutive quarter and the worst quarterly performance against this target since records began in 2008/09.

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