People in Lincolnshire displaying symptoms of cancer are facing increasingly longer waiting times before treatment begins.
Four fifths of people suspected of having the life-threatening disease are having to wait more than two months to start their treatment despite an urgent referral being made by their GP.
And newly compiled figures show that those waiting times are falling woefully below national targets.
In February, only 61.3% of patients started treatment within the target time – the worst performance for the measure since records began in October 2009.
That was down from 73.4% in January, according to figures released this morning by NHS England.
The target is for 85% of those urgently referred with suspected cancer to start treatment within two months. The target hasn’t been hit since September 2014.
The trust missed four out of eight cancer waiting targets in February.
Just 8% of patients referred with possible breast cancer symptoms saw a consultant within two weeks, while only 78.3% of all patients referred with suspected cancer saw a consultant within a fortnight.
It also missed the 90% target for those referred from screening services started treatment within two months, at 89.5%.
Across England, nearly a quarter of those urgently referred by their GP with cancer symptoms are now waiting more than two months to start treatment.
In February, only 76.1% of patients started treatment within the target time – the worst performance for the measure since records began in October 2009.
The 85% target hasn’t been hit since December 2015.
Cancer charity bosses say the delays are making things harder at already a difficult time for patients.
Matt Case, from Cancer Research UK, said: “For anyone going through tests and treatment for cancer, it’s an incredibly anxious time, and delays can make that worse.
“Diagnosing more cancers at an early stage will mean more people need to be referred for tests.
“But these figures show that, despite staff working harder than ever, there just aren’t enough staff to deliver the amount of tests required now or in the future.
“Month after month these figures emerge showing the NHS continues to be under immense strain.
“To have any chance of meeting its ambitions for early diagnosis, the Government needs to invest to make sure we have enough key cancer staff now and in the future.”
In February, 84.2% of patients referred through screening began treatment within two months, the lowest proportion since October 2009.
The target is 90%, which has been missed since March 2018.
For patients diagnosed with cancer, 92.8% had surgery within a month, below the 94% target for a seventh month in a row.
Just 82.5% of patients referred with possible breast cancer symptoms saw a consultant within two weeks, below the 93% target and the worst performance on record.
Baroness Delyth Morgan, Chief Executive at Breast Cancer Care and Breast Cancer Now, said it was “extremely worrying” the target had been missed again.
She said: “For the thousands of women referred with breast symptoms where cancer isn’t suspected, the national target to give them clarity within two weeks has now been missed every month for an entire year, and this is completely unacceptable.
“The wait to see a specialist for further testing can be agonising for so many women and it is essential they are given a definitive answer as soon as possible, to either provide peace of mind or allow them to begin treatment at the earliest stage.”
Baroness Morgan called on NHS England to investigate why breast cancer waiting times continue to decline, and lay out clear plans to ensure this failure does not continue.
A NHS England said: “More people than ever before are coming forward for cancer checks, with over a quarter of a million more people getting urgent checks for cancer this year and thousands more being treated within the two month target.
“NHS England is investing an additional £10 million this year to treat extra people and the NHS Long Term Plan set out a range of ambitious measures to catch more cancers earlier, which will save thousands of lives every year.”
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