Official data from mid-September shows that nearly 6,400 people had waited more than 100 days following a referral to cancer services.
The leaked data reveals for the first time the length of the cancer waiting list in the wake of the first pandemic peak, during which much diagnostic and elective cancer care was paused.
The list consists of those waiting for a test, the outcome of a test, or for treatment. NHS England and Improvement only publish waiting times for patients who have been treated – not the number still waiting – so this information has been secret.
The data, obtained from official emails seen by HSJ, showed the total number of people on the cancer waiting list grew substantially, from 50,000 to around 58,000, between the start of August and the middle of September.
Of the 6,400 people recorded to be waiting more than 104 days on 13 September, 472 had a “decision to treat classification”, meaning they have cancer and are awaiting treatment.
NHS England has said reducing the cancer waiting list would be overseen by a national “taskforce”, which is being chaired by national director for cancer Peter Johnson.
Experts have warned the delays already stored up in the system could cost tens of thousands of lives as patients go undiagnosed or have their diagnosis and treatment later than they otherwise would.
HSJ asked NHS England if harm reviews had been carried out for those on the waiting list and whether it had discovered if those waiting longer than104 days had been harmed, but did not receive an answer.
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Source: HSJ, 29 September 2020