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Backlog of long cancer waits has doubled

The backlog of patients who have been waiting for cancer treatment for more than 104 days has more than doubled since last year, according to internal NHS England papers seen by HSJ.

At the start of February, the backlog of cases already at more than 15 weeks had hit 6,109, compared to 3,000 at the same point in 2020.

National targets state cancer patients should be treated with 62 days of being referred.

In the North West region, the backlog has nearly tripled over the same time period, from 289 to 831 (see regional breakdown below). Senior sources told HSJ the increase had been largely driven by acute providers in Greater Manchester and Merseyside.

Cases in which patients have to wait more than 104 days for treatment are generally considered serious breaches, and typically trigger a process to identify if the delay has caused harm to the patient. Some local systems have declared a “zero tolerance” for such instances. The data in the papers is provisional.

Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said the impact of covid-19 on cancer patients has been “devastating”. She added: “The government must urgently make sure the NHS gets the funding it needs to increase cancer service capacity, and give every person with cancer the timely diagnosis and treatment they deserve.”

Read full story (paywalled)

Source: HSJ, 13 February 2021


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