New monthly cancer waiting times figures have been released today by NHS England. The figures show:

  • The two week wait for people referred with suspected breast cancer was missed. The target is 93%, but only 87.74% of patients were seen within two weeks in January 2019. This is a decline on December 2018, when 89.89% of patients were seen within two weeks.
  • The two week wait for breast symptoms (where cancer not initially suspected) was also missed with 82.83% of patients being seen within two weeks. This is the 11th month in a row that this target has been missed and is also a decline from December 2018 when 86.11% of patients were seen within two weeks.
  • The two week wait for suspected cancer for all cancers was missed with 91.66% of patients being seen within two weeks, down from 93.73% in December 2018.
  • The 31 day target (of 96% of patients starting their first treatment within 31 days of diagnosis) was missed for cancer overall (95.37%) but met for breast cancer (96.19%).
  • The 62 day target (of 85% of patients starting treatment within 62 days of urgent GP referral) was missed for cancer overall (76.24%) but met for breast cancer (88.57%). 

Sally Greenbrook, Policy Manager at Breast Cancer Now, said:

It’s really concerning that the two-week wait target for women referred to see a breast cancer specialist has been missed yet again, with waiting time performance continuing to fall. 
For the thousands of women referred with breast symptoms where cancer isn’t suspected, the national target to give them clarity within two weeks has now been missed for the 11th month running, with performance dropping worryingly short of the 93% target.

The wait to see a specialist for further testing can be agonising for so many women and it is essential they are given a definitive answer as soon as possible, to either provide peace of mind or allow them to begin treatment at the earliest stage.

We now need NHS England to investigate why breast cancer waiting times continue to decline, and lay out clear plans to ensure this failure does not continue. As proposed new targets begin to be tested across the NHS, we cannot lose sight of the importance of minimising these waiting times for patients and their families. We look forward to the results of these pilots to fully understand the impact of any changes to the current targets and ensure that they will tangibly improve time to diagnosis.