Hundreds of local NHS patients diagnosed with cancer last year waited longer than the expected two-month period before starting treatment, a new analysis of official figures reveals.
In North East & Cumbria over the course of 2014, 1378 patients waited too long for chemotherapy, radiotherapy and other forms of treatment for cancer – an increase of 11% on the previous year. Labour’s analysis of official NHS cancer care statistics shows over 20,000 patients waiting too long for treatment last year across England.
Patients have a right to receive their first treatment within 62 days of receiving an urgent GP referral for suspected cancer, according to the NHS Constitution. However, the NHS in England missed the target for all four quarters in 2014.
The figures come after separate NHS data last week revealed a record 19,000 patients waiting more than six weeks for key diagnostic tests, including seven that detect cancer. Patients must be tested promptly in order to begin treatment at the earliest opportunity. Labour’s election pledge card, unveiled at the weekend, commits the next Government to providing cancer tests and results within one week by 2020.
Last autumn, a Cancer Research UK report said the current Government’s NHS reorganisation had left services “standing still for the last two to three years” and that the changes were “hampering efforts to develop services and improve performance”. Meanwhile, NHS spending on cancer care in England fell by £790 million in the early years of this Parliament.
Louise Baldock, Labour’s candidate for Stockton South said:
"These figures show that you can't trust David Cameron with our NHS.
“In North Tees & Hartlepool Hospital Trust there has been a 23 per cent increase and across the region we are seeing waiting times increase.
"In the last year, hundreds of cancer patients have waited too long for treatment to start and, in some cases, their chances of survival will have been harmed.
"When it comes to cancer, speed is everything. Labour is committed to cancer tests and results within one week to help end this scandal.
“The NHS as we know it can’t survive another five years of the Tories’ failing plan. Labour has a better plan, to invest an extra £2.5 billion a year in the NHS and build a Time to Care Fund to recruit 1,300 more nurses in our region.”
Andy Burnham MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, said:
"David Cameron cut the cancer budget by £800 million in real terms and, despite all the warnings, he persisted with an NHS reorganisation that disrupted cancer services. The deterioration in cancer care is a direct consequence of Government policies and the clearest proof the Tories can't be trusted with the NHS. Ministers have left families facing anxious waits for cancer tests and treatment and their complacency is dangerous.”