Lisa Nandy MP: Intolerable wait for cancer patients

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Cancer patients in Wigan are being forced to endure unacceptable delays for diagnosis or treatment.

Data sourced by the Labour Party through a Freedom of Information request has revealed patients at Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust face waits of up to seven months (225 days) for a diagnosis of cancer or to have cancer ruled out.

Patients in Wigan are waiting up to 54 days to see a cancer specialist after their GP has urgently referred them to hospital.

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This is despite a target to see a hospital specialist within two weeks of an urgent GP referral.

Wigan MP Lisa NandyWigan MP Lisa Nandy
Wigan MP Lisa Nandy

Some patients in our area wait as long as 195 days to start cancer treatment.

Early diagnosis and treatment are key to improving survival from cancer and great progress has been made in the care that can be provided to cancer patients.

Yet despite the dedicated efforts of NHS professionals working in cancer care, our health service is under immense pressure because of Government mismanagement and neglect.

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Waiting times for cancer patients in England have worsened every year since the Conservatives came to power in 2010.

Cancer referral and treatment targets are repeatedly missed and NHS waiting lists have risen to over seven million – the highest ever on record.

Ministers point to the impact of Covid. But we entered the pandemic with record waiting lists, cancer patients waiting longer for care every year since 2010, and 100,000 NHS staff vacancies.

New analysis from Macmillan Cancer Support suggests that in the last decade, at least 100,000 people across the UK have seen their cancer worsen, or they have been left with fewer treatment options, a potential deterioration in their physical and mental health or a reduction in their chances of survival due to delays in being diagnosed and starting treatment.

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Despite this, the Government recently announced that they are now set to cut two thirds of existing cancer waiting times standards for patients. The latest figures revealed that the NHS met none of its cancer targets last month.

Fifty-two out of the 60 NHS trusts that responded to our Freedom of Information Request (including our local Trust) saw a patient wait more than half a year to start their treatment in 2022.

The NHS standard is for 85 per cent of patients to start treatment within two months of an urgent referral, a target that has not been consistently met since early 2014.

The Labour Party has committed to cut cancer waiting times down, so no patient waits longer than they should.

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Our plans to deliver better cancer care include training thousands more doctors and nurses every year, providing NHS staff with up-to-date modern technology, and reforming the health service so it catches cancer earlier.

Thirteen years of Conservative failure have created a crisis in cancer care, leaving patients waiting dangerously long for a diagnosis or treatment when their cancer could be spreading.

Instead of addressing the problem, the Government has now cynically moved the goalposts.

They should be focusing on cutting waiting times, not cutting standards for patients.