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Deadly cancer treatment delays now ‘routine’ in NHS, say damning reports

Hundreds of thousands of people are being forced to wait months to start essential cancer treatment, with deadly delays now “routine” and even children struck by the disease denied vital support, according to a series of damning reports.

Health chiefs, charities and doctors have sounded the alarm over the state of cancer care in the UK as three separate studies painted a shocking picture of long waits and NHS staff being severely hampered by a worsening workforce crisis and a chronic lack of equipment.

The first report, by Cancer Research UK, found that 382,000 cancer patients in England were not treated on time since 2015. The charity investigated how many patients had begun treatment 62 days or longer after being urgently referred for suspected cancer. The national NHS target – under which at least 85% of people should start treatment within 62 days – was last met in December 2015.

The second report, by the Royal College of Radiologists (RCR), said delays in cancer care had become routine, with nearly half of UK cancer centres experiencing weekly delays in starting treatment. The RCR also warned of a “staggering” 30% shortfall in clinical radiologists and a 15% shortfall in clinical oncologists – figures it projects will get worse in the next few years.

The third paper, from four children’s cancer charities – Young Lives vs Cancer, Teenage Cancer Trust, Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust, and Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group – said young patients were being failed by a lack of support after diagnosis.

Naser Turabi, the charity’s director of evidence, said the crisis was causing widespread treatment delays that “negatively impact” patients. “One study has estimated that a four-week delay to cancer surgery led to a 6-8% increased risk of dying, and delays can also reduce the treatment options that are available. There are also the psychological effects – with waiting causing major stress and anxiety for cancer patients and their loved ones.”

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Source: The Guardian, 13 June 2024


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