In England, two-thirds of cancer waiting time targets will be eliminated

Two-thirds of NHS cancer waiting time targets are anticipated to be eliminated in England, a move the health service says is intended to detect cancers sooner.

The NHS wants to reduce from nine to three the number of goals that have been routinely missed in recent years. According to them, the proposal is supported by leading cancer specialists and will simplify outdated standards. However, the leader of Radiotherapy UK expressed "serious concern."

Pat Price, an oncologist and visiting professor at Imperial College London, stated that current performance was "shockingly poor," and while too many targets could be disruptive, "the plain and simple reality is that we do not invest enough in cancer treatment capacity."

Since last year, the proposed changes have been the subject of consultation, and a decision is anticipated within days.

It is believed that NHS leaders are eager to move forward with the plan as it was initially announced, but ultimate approval by Health Secretary Steve Barclay is still required.

Three objectives are to be met are the cancer diagnosis within 28 days of referral, initiation of treatment within two months of an urgent referral and initiation of treatment one month after a treatment decision.

Six other goals, such as a two-week delay for a first appointment with a consultant, will be abandoned.

A spokesperson for NHS England stated that by ensuring that more patients are diagnosed and treated as soon as possible following a referral, and by replacing the outmoded two-week wait target with the faster diagnosis standard already used throughout the country, hundreds of patients waiting to have cancer ruled out or diagnosed could receive this information sooner.

They added that the modifications will permit a greater number of patients to be referred "directly to testing" and expand the use of diagnostic technologies such as artificial intelligence.

Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary for the Labour Party, accused the Conservatives of creating a cancer care crisis and leaving patients on dangerously long waiting lists. He told sources that Sunak should prioritize reducing patient wait times rather than lowering patient care standards.

According to the most recent statistics, 59.2% of cancer patients in England who received their first treatment in June after an urgent referral from their primary care physician had waited less than two months.

This was a modest increase from the previous month, but significantly below the 2015 goal of 85%.

The director of evidence and implementation at Cancer Research UK, Naser Turabi, stated last week that despite the greatest efforts of NHS staff, it is extremely concerning that cancer waiting times in England are once again among the worst on record. 

He attributed the missed targets to years of underinvestment on the part of the government and called for an increase in cancer personnel and a defined strategy.

One of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's five priorities is the reduction of waiting lists. His promise only applies to waiting lists in England, as Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are responsible for their own health systems.