Hundreds of local NHS patients diagnosed with cancer last year waited longer than the expected two-month period before starting treatment, a new analysis of official figures reveals.
In Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust, over the course of 2014, 222 patients waited too long for chemotherapy, radiotherapy and other forms of treatment for cancer. Labour’s analysis of official NHS cancer care statistics shows over 20,000 patients waiting too long for treatment last year across England, of which 3254 were in the South West.
Patients have a right to receive their first treatment within 67 days of receiving an urgent GP referral for suspected cancer, according to the NHS Constitution. However, the NHS in England missed the target for all four quarters in 2014.
The figures come after separate NHS data last week revealed a record 19,000 patients waiting more than six weeks for key diagnostic tests, including seven that detect cancer. Patients must be tested promptly in order to begin treatment at the earliest opportunity. Labour’s election pledge card, unveiled at the weekend, commits the next Government to providing cancer tests and results within one week by 2020.
Last autumn, a Cancer Research UK report said the current Government’s NHS reorganisation had left services “standing still for the last two to three years” and that the changes were “hampering efforts to develop services and improve performance”. Meanwhile, NHS spending on cancer care in England fell by £790 million in the early years of this Parliament.
In the last year, hundreds of cancer patients have waited too long for treatment to start and, in some cases, their chances of survival will have been harmed. This isn't good enough.
NHS staff do an amazing job but we can't keep asking them to do more and more with less and less. These figures show that the Tory plan of privatising and fragmenting the NHS isn't working for patients in Plymouth. Labour has a better plan, to invest an extra £2.5 billion a year in the NHS and build a Time to Care Fund to recruit 1,500 more nurses in the south west. That's the type of investment the NHS urgently needs to get waiting times down for patients in Plymouth.”
Andy Burnham MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, said:
"David Cameron cut the cancer budget by £800 million in real terms and, despite all the warnings, he persisted with an NHS reorganisation that disrupted cancer services. The deterioration in cancer care is a direct consequence of Government policies and the clearest proof the Tories can't be trusted with the NHS. Ministers have left families facing anxious waits for cancer tests and treatment and their complacency is dangerous.”
The NHS releases quarterly Cancer Waiting Times figures for all hospital trusts and can be found here:http://www.england.nhs.uk/statistics/statistical-work-areas/cancer-waiting-times/
Ministers disclosed the NHS spending figures in response to a Labour Parliamentary Question:http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmhansrd/cm140911/text/140911w0001.htm#140911w0001.htm_wqn23