Cancer waiting times in England have sunk to their worst ever levels, according to damning NHS statistics.
Only 78.2 per cent of patients started treatment within two months of an urgent GP referral – well below the Government target.
Charities today slammed the figure, which is the lowest percentage since records began nearly 10 years ago, in October 2009.
Macmillan Cancer Support described them as ‘disappointing’, as the 62-day target has now been breached for 31 months running.
And the Royal College of Nursing warned the ‘bold statistic represents untold stress and misery for thousands of patients and their families’.
Only 78.2 per cent of patients started treatment within two months of an urgent GP referral – well below the Government target
The last time the national target of 85 per cent of patients starting treatment within 62 days of an urgent GP referral was hit was in December 2015.
Headlines were made last month when the same figures for June were revealed, showing the figure was just 79.2 per cent.
But in July, the most recent month that data is available for, the rate dropped even further – down to 78.2 per cent.
The NHS England figures were released as one part of a series of reports into the performance of the health service this summer.
Some 72 per cent of all the NHS trusts in England missed the 62-day target in June, and a third missed it by at least 10 per cent.
Around 28,000 people waited more than two months for treatment to start after getting an urgent GP referral last year. And 11,000 of those were forced to endure waits of at least three months.
Tom Sandford, director of the RCN for England, said the figures in general ‘paint an alarming picture of an NHS still reeling from a heatwave summer our healthcare system could barely cope.’
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But he said ‘most worrying of all’ was the lowest ever percentage of cancer patients treated within the Government’s two month target.
Mr Sandford added: ‘This bald statistic represents untold stress and misery for thousands of patients and their families.
‘The 62 day limit isn’t an arbitary figure but was recommended by clinicians as the best way to try to halt progression of the disease.’
Dr Fran Woodard, Macmillan’s executive director of policy and impact, recognised the missed targets are no fault of hard-working medics.
She said: ‘These missed targets are disappointing and indicative of the immense pressure on the NHS workforce.’
Dr Woodard added it is imperative that the NHS is equipped with the right tools to deliver ‘world-class care for the cancer patients of the future’.
A leading doctor also raised grave concerns about how the NHS will cope as winter approaches and the service is put under further pressure.
Statistics show there were just under two million attendances to A&E departments during August, down on the 2.2 million seen a month before.
But Dr Nick Scriven, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said they still show the ‘system is under more pressure than ever before’.
The figures also show 89.7 per cent of A&E patients were seen within four hours – well below the 95 per cent target.
Nearly 40,000 patients had to wait longer than four hours from the decision to admit them to admission, and 156 patients forced to wait longer than 12 hours.