10 December 2020

NHS England cancer waiting times data from October 2020 shows:

  • The two week wait target for people referred with suspected breast cancer was not met. The target is 93% and 83.6% of people were seen within two weeks in October 2020. This is an increase from September 2020, when 80.9% of people were seen within two weeks. Referrals increased from 37,933 in September to 40,654 in October 2020. This is 1,301 people more compared to October 2019.
  • The two week wait target for breast symptoms (where cancer not initially suspected) was not met with 77.0% of people being seen within two weeks. It is a slight decrease from September 2020 when 77.2% of patients were seen within two weeks. Referrals increased from 10,963 in September to 12,148 in October 2020. This is 4,084 people fewer compared to October 2019.
  • The two week wait target for suspected cancer for all cancers was not met with 87.9% of people being seen within two weeks, an increase from 86.2% in September 2020.
  • The 31 day target (of 96% of patients starting their first treatment within 31 days of diagnosis) was missed for cancer overall (95.7%) and was met for breast cancer (96.8%). This is an increase from 95.2% in September. The total numbers in breast cancer have increased from 3,375 in September to 3,483 in October 2020. This is 850 people fewer compared to October 2019.
  • The 62 day target (of 85% of patients starting treatment within 62 days of urgent GP referral) was missed for cancer overall (74.5%) and was missed for breast cancer (83.5%). This is a decrease from 84.1% in September. The total numbers have decreased from 2,292 in September to 2,192 in October 2020. This is 26 people more compared to October 2019.

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

“The increase in referrals for people with potential symptoms of breast cancer to see a specialist is encouraging, especially at a time when we are riding the second wave of the pandemic. However, the crucial target for women to be seen within two weeks being missed yet again is cause for deep concern.

“The stark reality is that the lack of an appropriately resourced and supported diagnostic and imaging workforce, at a time when immense pressures on our health services are continuing to grow, could be resulting in more women being left to live with undetected breast cancer due to delayed diagnoses – a frightening prospect when we know that early diagnosis gives treatment the best chance of being successful.

“The unprecedented pressures put on the NHS by the first wave of the pandemic, which have already had damaging impacts on diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer patients, are now being exacerbated by the second wave and winter. Additional investment in the workforce over the next year was a welcome announcement from the Spending Review, but the need remains more urgent than ever for the Government to make the long-term investment, and take the strategic approach needed, that reflects and will address the scale of the crisis facing the cancer workforce. This is essential so that breast cancer services can safely continue and give all women the best possible chance of survival.

“It remains as important as ever during the COVID-19 pandemic that women check their breasts regularly and get any new or unusual breast changes checked out by a GP. While most breast changes won’t be cancer, on the occasions it is, early diagnosis increases the chance of successful treatment. Anyone looking for information and support can speak to our expert nurses by calling our free Helpline on 0808 800 6000.”

ENDS