Suspected bowel cancer patients at hospital trusts left in limbo waiting for results
Fewer than half of people urgently referred to York Teaching Hospital Trust and Hull University Teaching Hospitals Trust with suspected bowel cancer receive a diagnosis or an all-clear within four weeks, figures reveal.
Cancer support charities say urgent investment is required to tackle workforce shortages and reduce waiting times across England which they say can tragically slim patients’ chances of survival.
The figures come just months away from the introduction of a new NHS target for three-quarters of all suspected cancer patients to get their diagnosis within four weeks.
NHS England figures show in June, just 200 out of 426 patients (47%) with suspected cancer at York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust had received their test results within 28 days of an urgent GP referral.
Of the patients who were forced to wait longer, 61 had to wait at least 62 days.
The figures also show 87 out of 242 patients (36%) with suspected cancer at Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust had received their test results within 28 days.
Of the patients who were forced to wait longer, 39 had to wait at least 62 days.
Proportionately, suspected bowel cancer patients were more likely to wait over four weeks than those being tested for breast, lung or skin cancers following an urgent referral to the trust.
The figures exclude those referred through screening programmes, where it is not mandatory to log the cancer type.
From October, NHS trusts will be required to provide a result to 75% of all suspected cancer patients within four weeks as part of the new faster diagnosis standard.
It is aimed at getting treatment started sooner to those who need it, and placing minds at rest more quickly for those who are all-clear.
But charity Bowel Cancer UK said staffing shortages meant more funding was needed to carry out enough endoscopies, which can diagnose bowel cancer.
Chief executive Genevieve Edwards said: “Bowel cancer is the UK’s second biggest cancer killer, but it’s treatable and curable, especially if diagnosed early, and it’s tragic that some patients will face poorer outcomes as a result of having to wait too long for tests and treatment.”
NHS England said it was continuing to make progress through the pandemic with a quarter of a million people tested for cancer in June – the second-highest monthly number on record and 42% more than in the same month last year.
National medical director for England, Professor Stephen Powis, said: “NHS staff have made effective use of the additional resources made available to use to recover services which were inevitably disrupted during the pandemic, and we are continuing to tackle the Covid backlog.”