Almost half of all NHS trusts in England missed a crucial two-week cancer diagnosis target in every month last year, new data has revealed.
NHS targets state that 93% of patients should have an appointment with a cancer specialist within two weeks of an urgent GP referral.
But new research commissioned by the Liberal Democrats has revealed this target was missed by 63 of 132 (48%) of NHS trusts in England in every single month of 2022.
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Analysis of figures provided by the House of Commons Library also showed that only five NHS trusts, making up less than 4% of the total, met the target in every month of last year.
While at the worst performing trusts in December 2022, fewer than half of patients were seen within the two-week target after an urgent GP referral.
The worst was University Hospital Bristol and Weston where just 42% of patients were seen within two weeks.
This was followed by Whittington Health (45%), Liverpool University Hospitals (48%) and North West Anglia (49%).
The two-week wait appointment system was introduced so that anyone with symptoms that might indicate cancer could be seen by a specialist as quickly as possible.
The NHS website says attending this appointment within two weeks is vitally important and will allow an individual with symptoms to benefit from early reassurance that cancer has not been diagnosed or an early diagnosis and earlier access to treatment.
The Liberal Democrats warned that targets are being “routinely missed” and said the new research has exposed “shocking gaps in cancer care”.
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The party’s health spokesperson Daisy Cooper said: “It is a national scandal that crucial targets are being routinely missed, leaving many people waiting anxiously for a cancer diagnosis.
“It shows there are shocking gaps in cancer care depending on where you live in the country.
“The evidence tells us how critical a speedy diagnosis can be. The government must get a grip on this crisis so cancer patients get the urgent care they need to give them the best chance of survival.
“That must start with a proper plan to recruit the NHS staff the health service so desperately needs.”
Back in December, it was revealed that a record number of people with suspected cancer are being referred by their GPs to specialists – but the NHS has not been able to keep up with increased demand.
More than two and a half million people in England were referred for suspected cancer in the year to April 2022, 300,000 more than the previous record set two years ago and more than double the amount from 10 years ago.
But the number of exploratory tests which typically confirm or rule out a cancer diagnosis are down on pre-pandemic levels and in some cases the lowest since records began in 2009.
NHS data published in November showed that in September more than one in four people had to wait over two weeks to see a cancer specialist after being urgently referred by their GP – almost four times more than the NHS target.
A Department for Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “The latest NHS data shows a higher percentage of people with suspected cancer were seen within the 2 week wait standard in December compared to November.
“We are working to reduce the 62 day cancer backlog – which latest published figures show has fallen 9% since peaking in 2020 – but we know there is more to do.
“We are determined to reduce the time between cancer referral and consultation and have opened 92 community diagnostic centres that have delivered over 3 million tests scans and checks, including to detect cancer as early as possible.”