13 May 2021

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

“It is extremely encouraging to see March referrals for suspected breast cancer rise notably in the space of only a month, and that the percentage of these women being seen within two weeks has increased.

“However, we cannot overlook that all breast cancer targets were missed for the third consecutive month, starkly conveying the huge disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the long road ahead to recovery for these vital cancer services.

“We know the NHS is working tirelessly to safely diagnose and treat people with breast cancer, but the reality is that over the coming months, the sheer number of women coming forward will continue to place immense pressures on an imaging and diagnostic workforce already chronically under-resourced prior to the pandemic.

“More urgently than ever, the Government need to invest long-term and take a strategic approach to addressing the rapidly growing crisis facing the cancer workforce now. Until then, we fear some women will miss out on an early breast cancer diagnosis which we know is key to best chances of survival.

“We urge women to contact their GP if they find any new or unusual breast changes – while most changes won’t be cancer, on the occasions it is the sooner breast cancer is diagnosed the better the chances of treatment being successful. COVID-19 infection safety measures are in place for appointments. Anyone seeking information and support can speak to our expert nurses by calling our free Helpline on 0808 800 6000.”

-ENDS-

Notes to Editor

NHS England cancer waiting times data for March 2021 (published on Thursday 13 May 2021) shows:

  • The two week wait target for people referred with suspected breast cancer was not met. The target is 93% and 80.9% of patients were seen within two weeks in March 2021. This is an increase from February 2021, when 77.2% of patients were seen within two weeks. Referrals increased from 37,692 in February 2021 to 47,640 in March 2021.
  • The two week wait target for breast symptoms (where cancer not initially suspected) was not met with 76.9% of patients being seen within two weeks. It is an increase from February 2021 when 71.5% of patients were seen within two weeks. Referrals increased from 12,199 in February 2021 to 15,670 in March 2021.
  • The two week wait target for suspected cancer for all cancers was not met with 91.2% of patients being seen within two weeks, an increase from 90.3% in February 2021.
  • 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 (94.8%).This is a slight increase from 94.7% in February 2021. The total numbers in breast cancer have increased from 3,467 in February 2021 to 4,061 in March 2021.
  • The 62 day target (of 85% of patients starting treatment within 62 days of urgent GP referral) was missed for cancer overall (73.9%) and was missed for breast cancer (83.0%). This is an increase from 77.0% in February 2021. The total numbers have increased from 1,982 in February 2021 to 2,289 in March 2021.