More than a third of cancer patients do not start treatment on time at the Royal Devon and Exeter Trust

PUBLISHED: 17:00 26 March 2019 | UPDATED: 14:44 27 March 2019

Across the NHS, 227,569 patients have been waiting more than six months for cancer treatment, with 36,857 others waiting more than nine months. Picture: Radar

Across the NHS, 227,569 patients have been waiting more than six months for cancer treatment, with 36,857 others waiting more than nine months. Picture: Radar

PA Wire/PA Images

More than a third of cancer patients do not start treatment on time at the Royal Devon and Exeter Trust, figures have revealed.

The Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) warned that hospitals are continuing to struggle to reduce long waiting lists for planned treatment.

Hospitals are meant to start cancer treatment within 62 days of an urgent GP referral, with the target stating that 85 per cent of patients should start within this timeframe.

But figures for January revealed it targets were only met with 65.7 per cent of cancer patients - the worst performance on record at Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust. The trust has not hit the target in any month since December 2017.

It is a similar story across England, where just 76.2 per cent of cancer patients were treated within the two-month target, the lowest proportion on record. The target has not been met since December 2015.

Across the NHS, 227,569 patients have been waiting more than six months for treatment, with 36,857 others waiting more than nine months, figures show.

The RCS said these represent 31 per cent and 39 per cent increases respectively on the same period last year.

The number of people waiting for treatment is at its highest level since October, in January 4.16million people were waiting to start treatment.

A Trust spokesperson said: “Ensuring people with cancer continue to have timely access to treatment is a key priority for the Trust. Over the past year demand for cancer services has increased by as much as 30 per cent in some areas.

“Working with partner organisations, the Trust is investing over £2million this year in additional doctors, nurses and supporting professionals to meet growing demand.

“The quality of care delivered by our cancer services continues to be amongst the highest in the country and we will continue to do all we can to meet national waiting times targets for our patients.”

Professor Derek Alderson, president of the RCS, said: “The backlog of patients waiting to start treatment continues to grow.

“There are now over 100,000 more patients waiting longer than 18 weeks to start treatment when compared with the same time last year.”

Dr Fran Woodard, executive director of policy and impact at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “January 2019 marks five years since the 62-day cancer target was first missed and despite the best efforts of hard-working NHS staff, more than 127,000 people have been left waiting too long to start vital treatment throughout that time.”

An NHS spokeswoman said: “More people than ever before are coming forward for cancer checks, with a quarter of a million more people getting checked for cancer this year and thousands more being treated within the two-month target.

“NHS England is investing an additional £10million this year to treat extra people and the NHS Long Term Plan sets out a range of ambitious measures to catch more cancers earlier, which will save thousands of lives every year.”

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