NHS fails to treat one in six cancer patients within target time

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One in six cancer patients in England is not being treated in the recommended time, a charity has warned.

Patients are supposed to start treatment no more than two months - or 62 days - after a hospital receives an urgent GP referral.

But analysis by the charity Macmillan Cancer Support showed that 17% were waiting beyond the official NHS target.

After analysing NHS data, the charity said that over the past three years, the number of people waiting longer than 62 days has risen steadily from 20,534 in 2014 to 25,157 in 2016.

The charity warned that waiting for treatment could be distressing for patients while experts believed it could hamper a patient's chance of survival. 

It has called on the Department of Health to publish an updated total amount of spending on cancer services.

"This dismal 'anniversary' of breached cancer waiting times is yet another sign of pressure on the NHS," said Dr Fran Woodard, executive director of policy and impact at Macmillan Cancer Support.

"Everyone is suffering. Patients are waiting too long for treatment and it's leaving them anxious and depressed.

"Many healthcare professionals are feeling overstretched with their morale on the floor.

"Ahead of the Budget we are hoping the Government continues to show its commitment to investing in improving cancer services.

"But we also need to know what is being spent on cancer services right now so we know if there will be enough money in the pot to deal with the increasing demand.

"That's why we're calling on the Department of Health to publish its current spend on cancer services."

An NHS spokesman said: "For cancer patients, it's successful treatment that matters most, so Macmillan might also mention NHS cancer survival rates are now at their highest ever.

"That means another 2,400 people will be alive this year to celebrate their birthday who last year would not have been - clearly a very 'happy anniversary' for them and their loved ones."