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29 June 2022

Cancer treatment waiting times have surged in England

In April 65 per cent of patients started cancer treatment within two months, down from over 85 per cent in 2009.

By Aisha Majid

Patients in England are waiting longer than ever for cancer treatment in England, data from the NHS shows.

In April this year 65 per cent of patients started cancer treatment within two months of an urgent GP referral, down from over 85 per cent in 2009. The number of people receiving care within two months has consistently been below the NHS’s 85 per cent target since 2016. The number of people seen within two months of a screening was also well below the 90 per cent goal, at 73 per cent in April.


Waiting times for cancer treatment has come under scrutiny in the growing delays for services across the NHS. Last year the New Statesman reported that it could take years for the NHS to clear the treatment backlog, as the Covid-19 pandemic has strained services.

In the last year almost 480,000 patients had to wait longer than the target to start cancer treatment after an urgent GP referral. The UK also has some of the worst cancer survival statistics among wealthy countries. It ranked 21st (with 86 per cent of patients surviving for five years or more) among 34 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development for breast cancer and 25th for colon cancer (60 per cent).

[See also: Can the NHS clear its backlog?]

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