Two month target for cancer treatment is breached for third quarter

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: (Published 20 November 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g7038
  1. Jacqui Wise
  1. 1London

NHS trusts in England have breached the 62 day wait target for cancer treatment for the third consecutive quarter, latest figures show.1 The operational standard specifies that 85% of patients should wait no more than 62 days to begin their first definitive treatment after an urgent referral by their GP for suspected cancer.

In the quarter from July to September 2014 a total of 33 404 patients began the first definitive treatment for cancer after an urgent GP referral. The latest figures from NHS England show that 83.5% of these patients were treated within 62 days, down from 86.8% in the same quarter in 2013-14. This is the third consecutive quarter in which the target has been missed: the previous two quarterly figures were 84.1% and 84.4%.

Of 156 providers 67 failed to meet the 62 day wait target. The proportion of patients starting their first definitive treatment within 62 days varied by provider from 50% to 100%. The breakdown of wait to first treatment by cancer type shows that 95.1% of patients with breast cancer but only 73.6% of patients with lung cancer and 73.3% of those with lower gastrointestinal cancers began treatment within 62 days.

Sarah Woolnough, Cancer Research UK’s executive director of policy and information, said, “This isn’t just about missed targets—consecutive breaches mean thousands of patients are being failed. Today’s figures show that more than a third of all NHS trusts in England have breached the 62 day target.”

She added, “These targets exist to ensure swift diagnosis of cancer and access to treatment, which is vital if we’re serious about having the best survival rates in the world. Patients want confidence that suspected cancer is taken seriously and prioritised by the NHS.

“These breaches have become a trend, and they are worsening, which is why urgent action must be taken to support the NHS.”


Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g7038

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