The post-Covid pressures on the NHS are meaning that more than 65,000 people a month in England are being left waiting more than 28 days to find out whether or not they have cancer.
The calculation has come from the charity Cancer Research UK, using latest data from the Faster Diagnosis Standard (FDS), a performance standard introduced by government in 2021 that is used to capture how long people on certain cancer-related referrals wait for a diagnosis.
The current FDS target is set at 75%, meaning three quarters of people being urgently referred should be told they have cancer or given the all-clear within that 28-day timeframe. However, this target has yet to be met, it has said.
Calculated as the average number of people who received a diagnosis, or had cancer ruled out and the result communicated to them beyond the 28-day standard between October 2021 and February 2022, this left approximately 65,400 people in limbo, the charity has said.
Cancer and work
Long cancer waits can cause anxiety and worry and potential deterioration at home, all affecting a person’s ability to be in, and stay productive and engaged at, work.
In addition, the data has revealed major variation across the country – with only 78 of 143 trusts meeting the 75% target. This means that, despite the tireless efforts of NHS staff, chronic capacity issues mean that people continue to be failed by the system, the charity added.
Cancer Research UK chief executive Michelle Mitchell said: “As a country we should not be willing to accept that over one in four people on an urgent referral are left waiting over a month to find out whether they have cancer. Nor should we stand for the variation that exists across the country.”
The charity has called on the government to include a more ambitious target within its upcoming 10-year cancer plan, to help ensure around 54,300 more people each month receive a diagnosis or have cancer ruled out within a month.
“The government must take this opportunity to deliver for the millions of people affected by cancer. With ambitious targets, a credible plan to reach them and clear accountability, we can get there,” said Mitchell.