14 August 2020

NHS England cancer waiting times data from Q1 2020/21 shows:

  • The two week wait target for people referred with suspected breast cancer was missed. The target is 93% but 92.8% of patients were seen within two weeks in Q1 in 2020/21. This is an increase from Q4 2019/20, when 90.5% of patients were seen within two weeks. Referrals decreased from 103,902 in Q4 to 70,353 in Q1. Around 38,000 below the average quarterly figure for 2019-20 as a whole.
  • The two week wait target for breast symptoms (where cancer not initially suspected) was missed with 89.5% of patients being seen within two weeks. It is an increase from Q4 2019/20, when 85.6% of patients were seen within two weeks. Referrals decreased from 40,375 in Q4 to 17,625 in Q1. Around 26,500 below the average quarterly figure for 2019-20 as a whole.
  • The two week wait target for suspected cancer for all cancers was missed with 92.0% of patients being seen within two weeks, an increase from 91.5% in Q4 2019/20.
  • The 31 day target (of 96% of patients starting their first treatment within 31 days of diagnosis) was missed for cancer overall (94.7%) and was missed for breast cancer (93.6%). This is a decrease from Q4 2019/20 (96.9%). Referrals decreased from 12,833 in Q4 to 7,164 in Q1. Around 5,300 below the average quarterly figure for 2019-20 as a whole.
  • The 62 day target (of 85% of patients starting treatment within 62 days of urgent GP referral) was missed for cancer overall (73.3%) but met for breast cancer (88.4%). This is a slight decrease from Q4 2019/20 (88.9%). Referrals decreased from 6,394 in Q4 to 4,480 in Q1. Around 1,800 below the average quarterly figure for 2019-20 as a whole.

NHS England cancer waiting times data from June 2020 shows:

  • The two week wait target for people referred with suspected breast cancer was not met. The target is 93% and 92.1% of patients were seen within two weeks in June 2020. This is decrease from May 2020, when 95.6% of patients were seen within two weeks. Referrals increased from 22,413 in May to 31,034 in June 2020. Around 5,100 below the average monthly figure for 2019-20 as a whole.
  • The two week wait target for breast symptoms (where cancer not initially suspected) was not met with 90.6% of patients being seen within two weeks. It is a decrease from May 2020 when 93.7% of patients were seen within two weeks. Referrals increased as 8,495 patients were seen in June 2020 compared to 5,371 in May 2020. Around 6,200 below the average monthly figure for 2019-20 as a whole.
  • The two week wait target for suspected cancer for all cancers was not met with 92.5% of patients being seen within two weeks, a decrease from 94.2% in May 2020.
  • The 31 day target (of 96% of patients starting their first treatment within 31 days of diagnosis) was missed for cancer overall (93.7%) and was missed for breast cancer (91.1%). This is an increase from 90.5% in May. The total numbers in breast cancer have increased from 1,930 in May to 2,126 in June. Around 2,000 below the average monthly figure for 2019-20 as a whole.
  • The 62 day target (of 85% of patients starting treatment within 62 days of urgent GP referral) was missed for cancer overall (75.2%) but met for breast cancer (87.9%). This is a slight increase from 87.3% in May. The total numbers have increased from 1,272 in May to 1,583 in June. Around 500 below the average monthly figure for 2019-20 as a whole.

Baroness Delyth Morgan, Chief Executive at Breast Cancer Now, the research and care charity, said: 

“These latest figures make it starkly evident that the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer will continue for some time.

“Worryingly, our fears of growing delays in starting breast cancer treatment are now unfortunately being confirmed, as the 31-day target from being diagnosed to starting treatment has been missed again for breast cancer patients.

“Also, while the number of people being referred by their GP is now increasing further each month, we are still some way from the figures returning to what we would normally expect to see. It’s so important everyone continues to check their breasts regularly and knows that they can and should get in touch with their GP surgery urgently if they notice anything different or new. While most breast changes won’t be cancer, the sooner breast cancer is diagnosed, the more likely treatment is to be successful.

“We urge NHS England and Cancer Alliances to set out comprehensive plans to ensure all cancer services are fully restored and return to pre-pandemic levels as soon as possible. This includes ensuring that anyone whose appointment to see a specialist has been delayed is monitored and followed up. Crucially, there must also be sufficient capacity in the already stretched workforce to both to catch-up on the huge backlog and work through the potential influx of referrals in the coming months. It is essential we do all we can to minimise delays to the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer.”

ENDS