11 August 2022

Following internal NHS data seen by HSJ and BBC Newsnight revealing 'the number of patients waiting three months or longer following referral for suspected cancer remains at just over 10,000 patients last month', Baroness Delyth Morgan, Chief Executive at Breast Cancer Now, said:

“We’re extremely concerned about the continued impact of the pandemic on people affected by breast cancer, which was further evidenced by internal NHS data revealed by HSJ and BBC Newsnight yesterday.

“In particular, the number of patients waiting more than 62 days to start treatment for breast cancer has been increasing. This is despite the valiant efforts of NHS staff and the improvements we’ve started to see in performance against the two week wait to see a specialist, which dipped to an all-time low earlier this year.

“In 2020/21, almost a million fewer women in England were screened for breast cancer, and we estimate that (as of May 2022) almost 8,000 people in England are living with undiagnosed breast cancer largely due to screening disruption. The NHS Breast Screening Programme is vital in helping to detect breast cancer at the earliest possible stage when treatment is more likely to be successful.

“It’s vital the Government sets out how it will get breast cancer performance back on track, including addressing the shortfall in breast screening and finding the missing diagnoses.

“A critical component of this will be the Government urgently addressing the crisis faced by the breast cancer workforce, which was overstretched and understaffed long before the pandemic hit. We desperately need a fully funded long-term workforce plan alongside the upcoming 10-Year Cancer Plan to ensure prompt breast cancer diagnosis and treatment is guaranteed for women now and in the future.

“We encourage women to attend breast screening appointments when invited and to regularly check their breasts, reporting any unusual changes to their GP as soon as possible. Anyone concerned can speak to our expert nurses via our Helpline on 0808 800 6000.”

ENDS