More than 400 Wigan patients in a month are not told within new Government target time whether they have cancer or not

Wigan’s hospital trust met a new key Government cancer waiting time target in just one of the six months following its introduction, figures reveal.

By Patrick Jack
Thursday, 26th May 2022, 4:55 am

Cancer Research UK said the Government needs to invest more in the NHS and raise its target to prevent tens of thousands of people across England being "left in limbo" every month.

The Government introduced a new Faster Diagnostic Standard target last year for 75 per cent of people on certain cancer-related referrals to receive either a diagnosis or the all-clear within 28 days.

But monthly NHS England figures show that between October and March, Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust (WWL) hit this target just once.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The Government introduced a new Faster Diagnostic Standard target last year for 75 per cent of people on certain cancer-related referrals to receive either a diagnosis or the all-clear within 28 days.

In March – the most recent data available – the trust got back to 73.6 per cent of its 1,519 patients within 28 days – up from 69.2 per cent in February.

Read More

Read More
Residents demand crackdown on off-road bikers at Wigan beauty spot after one kil...

This means WWL 401 patients were waiting too long to find out whether or not they have cancer in the most recent month.

Cancer Research UK says they are among an average of 65,4000 people across England affected every month.

The 75 per cent target has not been reached yet nationally – and fell to just 73.1 in the most recent month.

Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “Cancer waiting targets have been missed for years – the pandemic has only made this worse.

"Where you live affects how long you will have to wait – this is bringing stress and anxiety for those waiting."

She urged people to see their GP if they notice any unusual changes to their health as cancer diagnosed at an early stage is more likely to be treated successfully, but called on the Government to do more.

WWL deputy chief executive Mary Fleming said: “Ensuring our patients can receive the level of care they need is incredibly important to us, and we strive to meet the Faster Diagnostic Standard target, meaning 75 per cent of people on certain cancer-related referrals must receive either a diagnosis or the all-clear within 28 days.

“The introduction of the National 28 day standard requires all providers to change the way they work and the infrastructure required to deliver the standard. In the meantime, we continue to reduce the waiting times for patients on this pathway.

“We recognise that any wait for referral, and then subsequent treatment, can be a very stressful time for our patients and their loved ones, and we are working hard to make sure that patients are seen and treated as soon as possible.”

Cancer Research UK says the new standard aims to produce swifter diagnoses for patients, but due to chronic shortages of specialists, the target is too low.

The charity is calling on the Government to raise the goal to 95 per cent within its upcoming 10-year cancer plan to reduce the number of people "left in limbo" each month, as well as plan to ensure the NHS can deliver it.

The proportion of patients who received a diagnosis or had cancer ruled out within 28 days of an urgent suspected cancer referral nationally was at its lowest level in January – just 63.8 per cent.

At WWL the worst performing month was also January, when just 67.9 per cent of 1,107 patients heard back.

Prof Charles Swanton, Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician, said a robust plan and sustained investment could help diagnose people quicker and earlier, and save more lives.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “We are improving outcomes for cancer patients across England and our new 10-Year Cancer Plan will set out how we will lead Europe in cancer care."

He added that the Government's record investment in the NHS aims to cut waiting times, including delivering an extra nine million checks, scans and operations by 2025 as part of plans to tackle the Covid backlog.