Cancer waiting times in Wales ‘unacceptable’ says leading charity
A leading charity says waiting times for a cancer diagnosis are “unacceptable” after the latest official figures confirmed just over just half of patients in Wales are starting their treatment within eight weeks of being suspected of having cancer.
In May just 53.0% of patients started their first treatment within 62 days, equalling the worst figures previously recorded in January 2022.
This is also well below the Cancer Pathway performance target, which aims for 75% of patients to start treatment within 62 days of first suspecting cancer.
The latest NHS Wales statistics also reveal there are around 12 times more people waiting more than 8 weeks for one of the key diagnostic tests compared to before the Covid pandemic.
The figures published today also reveal a substantial variation between Health Boards with Cwm Taf Morgannwg UHB seeing just 45.2% of patients starting treatment within 62 days of cancer first being suspected compared with 62.3% of patients in Betsi Cadwaladr UHB.
No Health Board in Wales has met the 75% target since July 2020.
Katie Till, Cancer Research UK’s public affairs manager in Wales said: “It is unacceptable that people in Wales are waiting too long to find out if they have cancer.
“Early diagnosis followed by swift access to the most effective treatment can save lives.
“Despite the best efforts of NHS staff, many of the delays are due to Wales’ chronic workforce shortages in the areas key to diagnosing and treating cancer. These shortages have hampered progress for years – well before the pandemic.
“We have been calling for a cancer strategy in Wales after being the only UK nation without one, so we are pleased the Welsh Government has announced a new Cancer Services Action Plan for later this year.
“But this plan needs to be ambitious and properly funded to address staff shortages and transform cancer services for the future.”
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “In May, 1,646 people started cancer treatment, 15% more than in April 2022.
“In addition 11,883 pathways were closed following the patient being informed they did not have cancer, an increase of 13% compared to April 2022. ”
The newly released stats also confirmed an increase in waiting time for patients to be seen in A&E units across Wales.
The figures show 66.4% of patients were dealt with within four hours which is marginally worse than figures for last month.
Over 10,000 visitors also had to wait 12 hours or more to see a doctor.
Last month patients were waiting and average of three hours and two minutes in casualty departments before being admitted, discharged or transferred – the third longest time on record.
The figures for those on hospital waiting lists in May show more than 722,000 “patient pathways” were awaiting treatment, a record high.
However, the numbers waiting more than two years for treatment to start has dropped by nearly 3,000 to 65,053, a second monthly fall after the spike caused by the Covid pandemic.
The number of “patient pathways” with waits of more than a year has grown to more than 176,300 – its highest figure since March last year.
Defending the latest figures, the Welsh government said: “Despite the increase in demand, huge numbers of patients were seen in May with the highest number of inpatient and day case treatments carried out (24,167) since the start of the pandemic.
“This figure forms part of a total of almost 365,000 patient consultations (not including GP appointments or therapies) undertaken by the NHS in Wales, the fourth highest since the start of the pandemic back in March 2020.”
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