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Insight

Treatment of cancer patients needs to improve

In the last week, the BBC and other press sources have reported that thousands of cancer patients have been failed by the NHS as waiting time targets between referral and treatment are being missed. In order to meet the target set, 85% of suspected cancer patients should be seen with 62 days of their referral from a GP, however that target has now been missed every quarter for two years. According to Cancer Research UK this is the worst result since records began back in 2009. Only 82.3% of suspected cancer patients were seen in time during Q1 of 2015. The target has not been met since 2013 and the figures are starting to take a worrying slide.

Early diagnosis and treatment of cancer can make a real difference – according to Cancer Research UK, more than 90% of bowel cancer patients will survive for more than 5 years if diagnosed at the earliest possible stage. For breast cancer 9 out of 10 woman survive more than 5 years if treated at the earliest stage, but if diagnosed at the latest stage only 15% survive for 5 years.

70% of patients with lung cancer survive for at least 12 months if diagnosed early, but only 15% will survive the same period of time if diagnosed at the latest possible stage.

There are many reasons for late diagnosis, but one of the key issues is the delay between the GP referral and going to the hospital to be seen.

Jonathan Zimmern, Senior Associate/barrister with Fieldfisher says: "These figures are worrying and they must not be allowed to become part of a wider trend.  It seems that targets for waiting times have been missed for the last five consecutive quarters and it is clear that urgent action is required to correct this issue. It is great to see that NHS England have paired up with Cancer Research UK, Macmillan Cancer Support and other agencies to put forward a 5 year plan to beat cancer.  However it is imperative that the Government does everything in its power to protect the NHS budget and let it get on with the job of looking after patients."

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