Leading oncologist responds to NHS decision to push back cancer backlog target by a fourth year

Professor Pat Price and Wes Streeting at Westminster event for #CatchUpWithCancerProfessor Pat Price, chair of radiotherapy UK and co-founder of the Catch Up With Cancer campaign, has responded to news NHS England will not meet its cancer backlog target for the fourth year running since the pandemic.

The key target for patients being treated within 62 days of a referral is 85%. The NHS priorities and operational planning guidance 2024/25 outlines the intention to improve performance against the headline 62-day standard to only 70% by March 2025.

This represents a downgrade in ambition to meet the 62-day cancer treatment target. It is also the fourth year in a row that NHS planning guidance has missed and moved its cancer recovery target, previously set for  March 2022, 2023, and 2024.  The #CatchUp WithCancer campaign is concerned to see the cancer recovery targets shift over the years with no real progress being made.

Professor Price said:

“The failure to meet the cancer backlog recovery target for a fourth year is proof positive that we are in a cancer crisis and we urgently need a new dedicated cancer plan. It’s inexcusable that such failure is baked into the system and the Government and NHS leaders appear unwilling to change course.

“This document’s publication without any real statement is not just a quiet shifting of the goalposts; it’s a heartbreaking confirmation of the lack of ambition to ensure timely cancer treatment for patients. We urgently need a new dedicated cancer recovery plan.” 

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