New NHS waiting times data from Q1 of 2019/20 (April to June) and the month of June 2019 have been released by NHS England and NHS Improvement.

The NHS waiting times quarterly data shows the targets of 93% for the two-week wait for those referred with breast symptoms has been missed:

  • The number of people seen within two weeks by a specialist after being referred by their GP with a breast symptom where cancer is suspected has fallen from 86.5% in Q4 2018/19 to 83.6% in Q1 2019/20.
  • The number of people seen within two weeks by a specialist after being referred by their GP with a breast symptom where cancer isn’t initially suspected has fallen from 80.9% in Q4 2018/19 to 77.5% in Q1 2019/20.

NHS waiting times data from June 2019 shows:

  • The two week wait for people referred with suspected breast cancer was missed. The target is 93%, but only 84.2% of patients were seen within two weeks in June 2019. This is down on May 2019, when 85.6% of patients were seen within two weeks.
  • The two week wait for breast symptoms (where cancer not initially suspected) was also missed with 78% of patients being seen within two weeks. It is down on May 2019, when 78.9% of patients were seen within two weeks. This is the 16th month in a row that this target has been missed.
  • The two week wait for suspected cancer for all cancers was missed with 90% of patients being seen within two weeks, down from 90.8% in May 2019.
  • The 31 day target (of 96% of patients starting their first treatment within 31 days of diagnosis) was just missed for cancer overall (95.96%) and was met for breast cancer (97.3%).
  • The 62 day target (of 85% of patients starting treatment within 62 days of urgent GP referral) was missed for cancer overall (76.7%) but met for breast cancer (88.5%).

Baroness Delyth Morgan, Chief Executive at Breast Cancer Care and Breast Cancer Now, said:

It is extremely concerning that the wait to see a breast cancer specialist is being prolonged for thousands of women as the two-week wait target continues to be missed. The target for women referred with breast symptoms where cancer isn’t initially suspected has now been missed for 16 months in a row, with performance continuing to be worryingly below the target.

Being referred for further testing can be agonising and it’s critical we minimise these waiting times. Women must be given a definitive answer as soon as possible, to either provide peace of mind or allow them to begin treatment quickly.

We need NHS England to investigate the reasons behind the repeated failure to meet the two-week wait target and lay out clear plans to ensure this is addressed. With proposed new targets being tested on the NHS, we cannot lose sight of the needs of this major group of women and their families. We look forward to the results of the pilots to fully understand the impact of any changes to the current targets and ensure that they will tangibly improve patient experience of diagnosis.