HUNDREDS of cancer patients are waiting too long for urgent treatment.
Latest NHS figures show more than 250 patients waited longer than two months after being referred to East Lancashire’s hospitals in the last year.
It means that the area’s two clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) failed to meet national cancer treatment waiting time targets for the year.
Dr Nicola Strickland, president of the Royal College of Radiologists, blamed a rationed workforce, equipment and support for longer waiting times.
She said: “More evidence of the ongoing downward trend away from the NHS’s 62 day referral to treatment target is stark but unsurprising in view of the increasing referral rates for suspected cancer.
“The cancer care system is having to treat more and more patients with rationed workforce, equipment and support, when it urgently needs more capacity.”
And figures show waiting times for cancer treatment are getting worse.
Data shows that between October 2017 and September 2018, 1,074 cancer patients at East Lancashire CCG were urgently referred to hospital by their GP, but 184 did not start their treatment within 62 days.
In East Lancashire CCG, 83 per cent of patients began treatment within two months of an urgent GP referral, slightly below the NHS target of 85 per cent.
That is lower than in 2016-17, when 88 per cent of patients started treatment two months after referral, which is above the NHS target.
While for Blackburn with Darwen CCG, between October 2017 and September 2018, 396 cancer patients were urgently referred to hospital by their GP, but 73 did not start their treatment within 62 days.
In Blackburn With Darwen CCG, 82 per cent of patients began treatment within two months of an urgent GP referral, below the NHS target.
That is lower than in 2016-17, when 86 per cent of patients started treatment two months after referral.
Dr Neil Smith, GP cancer lead for both Blackburn with Darwen and East Lancashire CCG said: “Although the target hasn’t been achieved by a small percentage, the actual number of people who are seen and treated has increased. "However, the target percentage should be much higher.
"A small but notable percentage represents people who are referred to hospital by their GP but don’t turn up for the appointment.
"This is a missed opportunity as we know the earlier people are seen and treated, the better the outcomes will be, including long term survival from cancer.
"I and my GP colleagues encourage anyone who has been referred to hospital for treatment to receive that treatment as soon as possible”.