In an effort to detect tumours earlier, the NHS expects to eliminate two-thirds of its cancer waiting time objectives in England.
NHS administrators aim to cut the number of goals from nine to three, the most of which have been consistently missed in previous years.
They claim that the idea has the support of top cancer researchers and will streamline the “outdated” criteria.
However, the CEO of the charity Radiotherapy UK expressed her “deep concern.”
The visiting professor at Imperial College London and oncologist Pat Price stated that the existing performance was “shockingly bad” and that, despite the potential for disruption from having too many targets, “the clear and simple truth is that we are not investing enough in cancer treatment capacity.”
Since last year, there have been consultations over the adjustments, and a conclusion is anticipated soon. NHS administrators are reportedly eager to move forward with the idea as initially outlined, but Health Secretary Steve Barclay must still give his final permission.
In an interview with BBC Breakfast, Mr Barclay stated: “We are currently consulting with top clinical experts in the field of cancer as well as cancer charities to determine whether the checks we have are resulting in the best outcomes for cancer survival or if there are more accurate ways to measure those outcomes.
“This is not something that is being imposed by the government; it is something that is being led by clinicians who treat cancer.”
There are three goals that must be met:
- Diagnosis of cancer within 28 days of referral
- Beginning therapy within two months of an urgent referral
- Beginning therapy one month following a treatment decision.
Six other goals, like a two-week wait for the initial consultant consultation, will no longer be pursued.
A spokesperson for NHS England stated: “Hundreds of patients waiting to have cancer ruled out or diagnosed could receive this news faster by ensuring more patients are diagnosed and treated as early as possible following a referral and replacing the outdated two-week wait target with the faster diagnosis standard already being used throughout the country.”
They noted that the modifications would permit more patients to be referred “straight to test” and would facilitate the adoption of diagnostic tools like artificial intelligence on a larger scale.
Wes Streeting, the shadow health minister for Labour, charged that the Conservatives were to blame for the cancer care crisis and the “dangerously long” cancer waiting time for patients.
Sunak should concentrate on reducing cancer waiting time rather than lowering patient standards, he told the Sunday Times.
59.2% of cancer patients in England who received their first treatment in June following an urgent GP referral had to wait less than two months, according to the most recent statistics.
Although marginally higher than the previous month, this was still far below the goal of 85%, which was last attained in 2015.
Years Of Underfunding
The head of evidence and implementation at Cancer Research UK, Naser Turabi, commented on the statistics last week: “Despite the best efforts of NHS staff, it’s incredibly worrying that cancer waiting times in England are once again among the worst on record.”
He demanded additional cancer specialists and a well-defined plan, blaming the government’s “years of underinvestment” for the unmet goals.
More people would be denied access to programmes that could have saved their lives, he said.
One of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s top five priorities is reducing cancer waiting time. Due to the fact that Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have independent healthcare systems, his vow only applies to waiting lists in England.
However, there were 7.57 million patients in England waiting for care overall in June, up from 7.47 million in May.
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