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Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Five-fold increase in patients waiting for cancer tests

Official NHS figures show a record high in the number of patients facing test delays of more than six weeks since the waiting time standard was first introduced seven years ago. 18,740 patients had waited longer than the six weeks when they received their cancer or other key test in January this year – more than five times the figure in May 2010 (3,495 patients). The figures cover 15 of the most important diagnostic tests, including seven that detect cancers and others for heart disease. 13,961 patients waited longer than six weeks for one of the cancer tests, including:
  • 2,954 patients in January 2015 waited too long for MRI scans compared to 374 in May 2010;
  • 1,125 patients in January 2015 waited too long for CT scans – up from 215 in May 2010;
  • 2,904 patients in January 2015 waited too long for ultrasound tests - not including pregnant women – up from 291 in May 2010;
  • 6,978 patients in January 2015 waited too long for one of four endoscopy tests that detect bowel and stomach cancers (Colonoscopy, Flexi Sigmoidoscopy, Cystoscopy and Gastroscopy) – up from 976 in May 2010.

Labour say they, if they win the election, will guarantee that NHS patients will wait no longer than one week for cancer tests and results by 2020 – on route to a one-week maximum wait for all urgent diagnostic tests by 2025. In 2014, 20,775 patients who were diagnosed with cancer waited too long to begin treatment (more than 62 days) – missing the treatment target in four consecutive quarters. Yesterday Labour also warned of delays to Government promises on radiotherapy, proton beam therapy and bowel cancer screening projects.

Commenting Shadow Health Secretary, 
Andy Burnham, said: “David Cameron promised to improve cancer care but this is damning evidence of his failure. He has presided over a major cut in the cancer budget in this Parliament and this has damaged the care that cancer patients are receiving. All the gains that Labour made have been lost and the NHS is heading in the wrong direction. Thousands of families are waiting too long for tests, facing all the anxiety that means, and cancer is being diagnosed at a later stage where treatment is less likely to be successful. That’s why Labour will guarantee a maximum one-week wait for cancer tests."

"The NHS as we know it can’t survive five more years of the Tories. Families struggling with cancer can’t take the risk. and, despite all the warnings, persisted with an NHS reorganisation that disrupted cancer services." Mr Burnham added.