The NHS recently announced that targets around cancer waiting time are expected to change. Six of the nine current targets, including the two-week cancer pathway towards a first consultation, will be dropped.
The three targets expected to remain are:
- Diagnosis of cancer within 28 days of the initial referral
- Starting treatment within one month after the decision to treat
- Starting treatment within two months of an urgent referral
While there is some support for a more streamlined approach, others have criticised the Government's long-term underinvestment as the reason behind the current delays. Dr Pat Price, a Consultant Oncologist and visiting professor at Imperial College London, told the BBC earlier that "the clear and simple truth is that we are not investing enough in cancer treatment capacity".
NHS England's own statistics show that, in June 2023, just 59 per cent of patients started treatment within the two-month target time that will remain in place despite the expected changes. This is compared to a target of 85 per cent, which was last met nearly eight years ago.
Representing clients successfully in delayed cancer diagnosis claims makes it painfully apparent that earlier diagnosis and treatment is the most crucial factor to ensuring a patient has a better prognosis, and for treatment to be as effective as possible.
Streamlining the process from referral to diagnosis and treatment sounds positive, but the reality is that, regardless of what and how many targets are set, patients are consistently waiting much longer for vital and typically life-saving treatment to begin. In this scenario, targets become fairly meaningless unless they actually impact medical care.
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