Wait for cancer tests is ‘worrying’

Patients are waiting more than six weeks for tests at 40 hospitals in the North, Yorkshire and the Humber
Patients are waiting more than six weeks for tests at 40 hospitals in the North, Yorkshire and the Humber

A charity has raised concerns about the length of waits for potentially life-saving tests that could diagnose cancer.

Under NHS rules patients should wait no more than six weeks for the two vital tests.

But data from NHS England shows more than 40 hospitals in the north of England, Yorkshire and the Humber were breaching waiting times.

Asha Kaur, head of policy and campaigns at Bowel Cancer UK, said: “These waiting time figures present a worrying picture for patients and demonstrate the urgent need for the

Government to make addressing this capacity crisis a national priority.

“If hospitals are expected to meet waiting time targets then they must be given the resources and capacity to enable them to meet these standards.”

The two key tests used to diagnose bowel cancer are colonoscopy and flexible sigmoidoscopy – a camera on a thin, flexible cable inserted into the bowel to look at different parts of the bowel.

These tests are known as endoscopy procedures and can detect cancer at the earliest stage of the disease, when it is more treatable, and even prevent cancer through the removal of pre-cancerous growths.

The data for August shows 53 per cent of patients waited more than six weeks for colonoscopy appointments at Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, while 42 per cent faced a long wait for flexible sigmoidoscopy at East Cheshire NHS Trust.

Waiting times were better at Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust, but still above the targets.

For colonoscopy 3.8 per cent of patients waited more than six weeks, while 8.9 per cent waited for flexible sigmoidoscopy.

Bowel Cancer UK believes the waiting times show demand for diagnostic tests is outstripping capacity and is calling on the Government to invest in more NHS staff.