RTUK and the Catch up with Cancer campaign unveil dramatic visual representation of cancer waiting times outside parliament.
Over a third of cancer patients across England are waiting beyond Government’s targets for treatment.
The need for urgent action to tackle the ‘horrific’ scale of the cancer backlog will be highlighted today by a group of cancer professionals as they unveil a giant map outside of parliament emblazoned by the local cancer waiting times broken down across the nations and regions of the UK, to show that no region is currently meeting the Government target of cancer waiting times.
The move comes as Ministers are believed to be near finalising the 10-Year Cancer Plan which is set to be released in July. The group will include cancer patients and professionals drawn from the radiotherapy community frontline workforce, radiotherapy industry and leading radiotherapy experts such as representatives from the Society of Radiographers, Radiotherapy UK and heads of NHS radiotherapy departments.
Professor Pat Price, leading oncologist, Chair of the charity and co-founder of the #CatchUpWithCancer campaign said,
“Right now, the Government is drawing up its 10-Year Cancer Plan. We are terrified that once again this much needed and overdue plan will be more of the same and offer too little too late. We hope this visual manifestation of the scale of the problem will galvanise Ministers to see that radical action is needed. It is shocking that no region is currently meeting the Government’s own target of cancer waiting times – today’s data shows just how widespread and colossal the crisis is. The cancer backlog numbers are horrific and are set to get even worse. It simply doesn’t need to be this way. In particular, a modest investment in radiotherapy will enable the sector to be a game changer in the battle against the backlog. But instead of that, up until now the sector feels overlooked and burdened with the dead hand of bureaucracy.”
A giant map will be unveiled outside Parliament to show the cancer waiting times in each Scotland, Wales and the seven regions across England.
The Government has set a target in England of no more than 15% of cancer patients waiting longer than the recommended 62-day wait between the date the hospital receives an urgent referral for suspected cancer and the start of the treatment.
Yet the figures featured on the map today show that there is not one regional area across the country which is meeting this target. On average across England, 36.2% of patients are waiting beyond the 62-day limit. This represents over a third of cancer patients across the country waiting longer than the recommended time for crucial cancer care – which is over double the Government target. In most cases, the number of patients waiting more than 62 days is double or even three times as high as the Government’s own target.
The regional breakdown is as follows:
· In the North East and Yorkshire 34.4% of patients are waiting beyond 62 days – over double the Government’s target and over a third of patients in that area
· In the North West, 37.0% are waiting beyond the 62 days – over double the Government’s target and over a third of patients in that area
· In London, 34.3 % of patients are waiting beyond 62 days – over double the Government’s target and over a third of patients in that area
· In the East of England, 37.6% of patients are waiting beyond 62 days – over double the Government’s target and over a third of patients in that area
· In the South East, 29.5% of patients are waiting beyond 62 days – nearly double the Government target
· In the South West, 31.9% of patients are waiting beyond 62 days – over double the Government’s target
· In the Midlands 46.5% of patients are waiting beyond 62 days – three times the Government’s target and nearly half of all cancer patients in that area. This region in the UK has the highest number of patients waiting for cancer treatment. Birmingham and Solihull is the sub-region with the highest proportion of patients in the country waiting for cancer treatment beyond the target, with 64.6% of cancer patients in that area waiting beyond 62 days to be treated. This is over four times the Government target and over half of the cancer patients in that area.
· In Scotland, 21.0% of patients are waiting beyond 62 days.
o Note: In Scotland, the 62-day standard states that 95% of eligible patients should wait a maximum of 62 days from urgent suspicion of cancer referral to first cancer treatment. Today’s data reveals that no areas in Scotland are meeting the Scottish target of no more than 5% of patients diagnosed with cancer waiting beyond 62 days.
· In Wales, 41.3% of patients are waiting beyond 62 days.
o Note: Wales measure cancer waiting times differently to Scotland and England, using a Single Cancer Pathway instead. This combines all urgent and non-urgent referrals into one target time of 62 days or less. This means that when cancer is first suspected, the patient should ideally have a confirmed diagnosis and start treatment within 62 days. The Welsh Government has not set out what proportion of patients should be seen within that time, but according to Cancer Research Wales, it is hoped that 95% of patients will begin treatment within 62 days post-referral. . Today’s data reveals that no areas in Wales are meeting this standard.
Professor Pat Price added, “The brutal reality is that every four weeks delay to cancer treatment reduces survival rates by 10%. That’s why meeting these targets matters. This is nothing short of a national emergency. Radiotherapy is the closest thing we have to a silver bullet against the cancer backlog. It is the most cost-effective of cancer treatments, is Covid-secure and can cure patients for as little as £3,000-£6,000 per patient.”
The radiotherapy community are concerned that without recognition of radiotherapy’s crucial role in the 10-Year Cancer Plan, the cancer backlog and waiting times will continue to grow, and more people will die needlessly. Campaigners and clinicians today are calling for urgent Government action and investment to increase radiotherapy treatment services to catch up with the backlog and deliver world-class cancer care in the UK.