More than 100,000 cancer patients may have been harmed by delays

More than 100,000 cancer patients may have been harmed by treatment and diagnosis delays over past decade, experts warn

  •  NHS figures show 180,000 had to wait longer than they should since 2014
  •  Macmillan Cancer Support blamed repeated government failures

More than 100,000 cancer patients may have been harmed by treatment and diagnosis delays over the past decade, a damning study suggests.

Macmillan Cancer Support said its analysis of NHS figures show 180,000 have been forced to wait longer than they should for care since 2014.

Many will have seen their cancer progress while waiting, leaving some with fewer treatment options and others with a disease that had become incurable.

The charity blamed repeated government failures for putting ‘tens of thousands of lives at risk’ across the UK and described the figure as ‘shameful’.

Doctors and nurses are being ‘stretched to breaking point’ because of a shortage of staff and scanners, Macmillan added, noting that some healthcare workers have described the impact on patients as ‘inhumane’.

Macmillan Cancer Support said its analysis of NHS figures show 180,000 have been forced to wait longer than they should for care since 2014

It said that performance against Government-set cancer waiting times targets fell to the worst on record in 2022 in all four UK nations.

Meanwhile, a survey of almost 2,500 adults in the UK who have had a cancer diagnosis in the last decade found that 556 had experienced a delay to treatment and diagnosis.

Of these, 23 per cent said the delay had seen their cancer get worse, made their cancer ‘incurable’ or led to them having ‘fewer treatment options’.

This equates to at least 100,000 people across the UK, Macmillan said.

Gemma Peters, chief executive at Macmillan Cancer Support, which commissioned the YouGov poll, said: ‘Cancer care is in crisis after years of governments failing to act.

‘Every single person who has faced a worse outcome from their cancer diagnosis because of delays will know the devastating impact that waiting has had on their lives, from the burden of anxiety that their cancer is growing, and for many, the devastating news that their cancer is now incurable.

‘This is categorically unacceptable and entirely avoidable.

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‘Governments can turn things around if they act now – immediate action will start to tackle the issues people are facing right now, and governments must implement longer-term solutions for everyone affected by cancer in the years to come.

‘That is why Macmillan is launching our new ‘What Are We Waiting For?’ campaign, calling on all four UK governments to commit to providing the NHS with the funding and support needed to ensure everyone, everywhere gets the potentially life-saving cancer care they desperately need, on time.’

The charity said it has been contacted by NHS cancer care workers who have expressed dismay at not having the staff or resources they need to provide quality care as quickly as they need to.

Naman Julka-Anderson, an advanced practice therapeutic radiographer and an allied health professional clinical advisor for Macmillan Cancer Support, said: ‘I’ve had patients arrive for their radical chemotherapy appointment who wait three hours only to be told that because of staff shortages, we can’t deliver their treatment today; it’s inhumane.

‘Patients are really struggling with having to constantly push for their own treatment, support, and just about anything that they need, due to Government inaction.’

One lung cancer patient said she should not have to ‘ring up and beg for appointments’.

Jules Fielder, 39, from Hastings, told the charity: ‘The pressures on the NHS are already showing, and it’s heartbreaking.

‘Just last week, I was called the day before my three-month scan to tell me it was cancelled once again.

‘I rely on my scans; they are my lifeline. I shouldn’t be ringing up my team begging for my appointments.

‘I am living life heightened where I’m so on edge about my appointments being cancelled, and so anxious that my phone is going to ring with another cancellation.

‘It’s affecting everybody around me; my family, my friends, my son, they’re all suffering.

‘I have the disease in my body, but my husband and my son are on the same journey with me.’

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: ‘Cancer remains a national priority for the NHS and Scottish Government which is why last week we published a new 10-year strategy, focused on improving cancer survival and providing equitable access to treatment.’

A spokesman for the Department of Health in Northern Ireland said: ‘The Cancer Strategy 2022-2032 sets the direction of travel for cancer services for the next 10 years with the vision to ensure everyone in Northern Ireland has equitable and timely access to the most effective, evidence-based referral, diagnosis, treatment, support and person-centred cancer care.’

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: ‘We are investing heavily in cancer services to train additional staff, build new facilities, increase early detection and provide rapid access to high-quality cancer care to ensure people receive the right treatment as quickly as possible.’

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