13 January 2022

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

“It’s highly alarming that record numbers of women with potential breast cancer symptoms are facing increasingly long waits to be seen by a specialist - waits that we know cause many women unimaginable distress and anxiety.

“It is deeply troubling to see performance against the two week wait for breast cancer referrals specifically drop so sharply, and well below the figures seen across all suspected cancers. This is further indication of the immense ongoing pressures on the NHS workforce. That this data does not reflect the impact of Omicron on our health service, increases our concern as we look ahead.

“The Government must set out how they will address the influx in demand for breast cancer services, putting an end to agonising delays and ensuring prompt breast cancer diagnosis and timely treatment for all women diagnosed.

“Last year, the Government committed to eliminate the shortfall of patients starting their first treatment by March 2022. With around 9,000 (1) women still living with undiagnosed breast cancer, it’s looking increasingly unlikely this target will be met, and further action is urgently needed.

“Anyone seeking information and support can speak to our expert nurses by calling our free Helpline on 0808 800 6000.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors

(1)The number of people starting their first treatment for breast cancer under the 31 day wait from decision to treat between March 2020 and November 2021 (compared to data from the same months in 2019/20) in England. Calculated using Monthly Provider Based Data and Summaries, Cancer Waiting Times, NHS England.

NHS England cancer waiting times data for November 2021 (published on Thursday 13 January 2022) shows:

  • The two week wait target for people referred with suspected breast cancer was not met. The target is 93% and 51.8% of patients were seen within two weeks in November 2021. This is a decrease from October 2021, when 70.9% of patients were seen within two weeks. Referrals increased from 44,409 in October 2021 to 49,143 in November 2021.
  • The two week wait target for breast symptoms (where cancer not initially suspected) was not met with 52.2% of patients being seen within two weeks. It is a decrease from October 2021 when 67.6% of patients were seen within two weeks. Referrals increased from 12,991 in October 2021 to 14,627 in November 2021.
  • The two week wait target for suspected cancer for all cancers was not met with 77.4% of patients being seen within two weeks, a decrease from 81.3% in October 2021.
  • The 31 day target (of 96% of patients starting their first treatment within 31 days of diagnosis) was missed for cancer overall (93.0%) and was missed for breast cancer (93.4%). This is a slight increase from 93.2% in October 2021. The total numbers in breast cancer have increased from 3,987 in October 2021 to 4,439 in November 2021.
  • The 62 day target (of 85% of patients starting treatment within 62 days of urgent GP referral) was missed for cancer overall (67.5%) and was missed for breast cancer (79.9%). This is a slight increase from 79.6% in October 2021. The total numbers have increased with 2,002 in October 2021 to 2,218 in November 2021.