The latest figures released by NHS England continue to show a marked decline in the health service’s capacity to meet key cancer treatment targets.
Under current rules and targets NHS hospitals are expected to provide 93% of patients suspected of having cancer with their first outpatient appointment with an oncologist within 14 days of referral.
The target has been in place since 2009 and whilst there have been months where the target has not been met April of this year represented the NHS’ worst performance when measured against it; the month in question seeing NHS hospitals across England only managing to hit 89.9%.
Data has also revealed that for the past 10 of the last 12 months NHS hospitals have failed to meet the target. In turn this decline of capacity has been mirrored in NHS Trusts missing a further core target: ensuring that 85% of patients referred for urgent cancer treatment started their treatment within 62 days.
Other data recently released by NHS England – although not pertaining to cancer performance – has also revealed that the NHS is continuing to struggle in meeting key targets in other areas.
The waiting list for non-urgent elective surgery is now at its longest since records began with a waiting list of 4.3 million. The figures also showing that of this number only 86% have been treated within 18 weeks despite the fact that the number ought to be 92%.
Dr Alex Ashman, Leader of the National Health Action Party reacted to the news by stating:
“Today’s figures are a truly worrying development, but they are hardly surprising. The National Health Action Party has previously drawn attention to the NHS’ decline in performance in regard to all of these targets. What we are seeing is the NHS continuing to struggle under a series of system wide pressures.
The first of those being the inadequate funding that the health service is continuing to receive. A case in point being this week’s revelation that the government has resorted to raiding of the capital budget, yet again and after promises that it would cease doing so, in order to fund frontline care. A further factor in this decline comes down to staff numbers.
But this lack of staff cannot be isolated from the policy environment that has increasingly made the NHS a less attractive destination for would be nurses and doctors from both abroad and at home. Burnout and stress are seriously taking their toll on NHS staff. What is clear is that patients and the NHS deserve a New Deal. Once they’re unlikely to get whilst the Conservative Party is in government.”