Tuesday 18 January 2022 / 1:15 PM Health / NHS / Wes Streeting

Half of suspected breast cancer patients waiting more than two weeks to see specialist

Half of patients with suspected breast cancer are waiting more than the two-week target to see a specialist after being urgently referred, new data reveals.

23,704 women, 48.2% of all referrals, waited more than two weeks to see a specialist in November, the latest month for which data is available.

The number has quadrupled in just two months, surging from 5,280 patients in September, 12.5% of all referrals.

Although targets for cancer waiting times are being missed across the board, the number waiting longer than the target period for breast cancer care is far higher than other forms of cancer. The next longest wait to see a specialist was for patients with suspected skin cancer, where 23% of had to wait more than 14 days.

Wes Streeting, Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary, who was treated for kidney cancer this year, asked Health Secretary Sajid Javid in the House of Commons today whether breast cancer care has been “deprioritised.” In his response, Javid denied that breast cancer care had been deprioritised and blamed the Omicron wave, although the figures are from November, before the latest wave of covid infections hit.

Wes Streeting MP, Labour’s Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary, said:

“I know from experience that an early cancer diagnosis can be lifesaving.

“Under the Conservatives, thousands of patients with suspected breast cancer are left waiting for weeks on end with the insecurity of not knowing. Yet the Health Secretary can’t explain why breast cancer care is falling behind other forms of cancer, nor does the Government have a plan to fix it.

“Thanks to a decade of Conservative mismanagement, the NHS went into the pandemic with waiting lists at record levels, staff shortages of 100,000 in the health service and 112,000 social care vacancies. It’s not just that they didn’t fix the roof when the sun was shining, they dismantled the roof and removed the floorboards.”