Britain’s cancer shame…patients wait 55 days to even start treatment
The figure, which measures the time between a referral to a GP and the start of hospital treatment, is now a week longer than at the start of 2020.
The UK is one of the worst countries for cancer mortality and ranked 33rd out of 41 developed countries in 2019, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Charities and experts have warned that the impact of the pandemic threatens to see survival rates fall further.
NHS data released last week showed 38,000 fewer patients were diagnosed with cancer in England in 2020, down 12% from the previous year.
Professor Gordon Wishart, chief medical officer at private clinic Check4Cancer, said: “As a country that has contributed so much to cancer research and development, it is devastating to see the UK languishing in 33rd place. out of 41 developed countries in a cancer league table. mortality, with the worst survival rate in the G7. »
“The increase in cancer wait times is evident, with only 78% of urgent referrals seen within two weeks.”
“But it’s important to remember that more than 20% of patients are diagnosed through elective pathways, where wait times can be months, or in A&E when a catastrophic event occurs.”
“With delayed access to cancer treatment, it’s easy to see why cancer survival rates in the UK are so low and declining.”
At least 85% of patients should start treatment within 62 days of an urgent referral, according to NHS targets.
But data shows standards have plummeted over the past decade, with only 62% of patients currently receiving their first treatment on time.
Professor Wishart, who is also a visiting professor of cancer surgery at Anglia Ruskin University, said the backlog created by the lockdowns had “widened the cracks in a system that was failing long before the pandemic”.
He added: “With prolonged austerity likely, we need urgent NHS reform to protect essential cancer services to improve our embarrassing cancer survival rate.”
Professor Sir Mike Richards, former director of cancer at the Department of Health and chairman of the UK’s National Screening Committee, said hospital capacity needed to be increased.
He told the Sunday Times: ‘Across a whole range of diseases, but particularly in cancer, we have a late diagnosis service in this country, and it needs to be tackled urgently.’
“There are multiple factors, many of which were present long before the pandemic, but which have been aggravated by Covid-19.”
Cancer Research UK has warned that without urgent action, cancer survival rates could fall for the first time in a generation.
The charity’s chief executive, Michelle Mitchell, said people should be encouraged to seek help as soon as they notice worrying symptoms.
She said: ‘We need to improve access to GPs. They’re in a rush right now, but it’s really important that people have timely access to them.”
“If you diagnose early, less toxic treatments with much higher survival rates are available for the vast majority of cancers.”