NHS England praises NHS for referring more cancer patients early and calls for action to address waiting time pressures

NHS England today (Friday) praised NHS staff for referring and treating an increasing number of patients for cancer as more people step forward for treatment early.

Publishing the latest statistics on cancer waiting time standards, it said a welcome rise in referrals and treatment rates had put pressure on hospitals.

It announced the creation of a taskforce, with Monitor and the NHS Trust Development Authority, to help the NHS maintain waiting time standards and tackle under-performance where necessary.

Sean Duffy, NHS England’s Clinical Director for Cancer, said: “It is really good news the number of patients being diagnosed and treated for cancer early is on the rise. We have been encouraging patients to step forward early and they are.  We are now treating more people than ever before and as a result the NHS is helping more people than ever survive.

“Over the last five years we have seen a 51 per cent increase in the number of patients referred within two weeks for suspected cancer symptoms, which is good news for improving early diagnosis and survival.”

He added; “We continue to treat the vast majority of patients within a month of deciding treatment is needed, and it is imperative that we focus on maintaining waiting times standards as demand for care increases.”

Further information:

NHS England, the NHS Trust Development Authority and Monitor have developed a comprehensive recovery plan to scrutinise existing performance and strengthen the system. The immediate focus of the plan is to improve performance against the 62 day standard across those trusts with the most breaches.

There have been a number of campaigns aimed at encouraging people to see their GP if they are worried about symptoms. For example, a national lung cancer campaign saw an estimated 700 additional cancers diagnosed when compared to the previous year (national lung campaign 2012).

Latest cancer waiting times published today on the Statistics section of the NHS England website.

Top line figures

  • In 2013/14, over 1.3 million patients were seen by a specialist within two weeks of being referred by their GP.  That’s over five thousands patients accessing specialist care every working day.
  • The number of patients seen by a specialist within two weeks of an urgent GP referral for suspected cancer has increased by 457,000, or 51 per cent over the past five years. This is an average increase of 10 per cent each year.
  • In the last year the number of patients seen by a cancer specialist within two weeks of an urgent referral has risen by almost 20 per cent (18.5 per cent – comparing figures for quarter 1 2014/15 to quarter 1 2013/14).
  • The number of patients beginning first treatment within 62 days of an urgent GP referral for suspected cancer has increased by over 27,000, or 28 per cent over the past five years.
  • This is an average increase of 6 per cent each year.


  1. Karen Tompkins says:

    I am very pleased to read that referrals for suspected cancer are being dealt with more rapidly and it may please you to know that in 2012 I was put on a 2WW referral by my GP for ultrasound in April and after diagnosis of Ovarian Cancer, was operated on by July followed up by belt and braces chemotherapy and this was successful and 2 years on I am still clear, so thank goodness for a sharp-eyed GP and a quick follow-up and treatment. I know many who slip through the net and are not so lucky as I have been.

    I am saddened though, that the very same GP practice no longer display the Ovarian cancer warning posters (BEAT) that made me wonder at the time whether my symptoms were indeed that. I am glad the GP did not entirely follow my lead, as I thought beforehand that my symptoms were Bowel not Ovary, but his questioning and examination led him down the Gynae path thankfully – so please keep Doctors well-trained in spotting the signs regardless of what the patient may be saying!

  2. James says:

    Is it just me or does NHS England seem allergic to use the term “GPs” or “primary care”.
    I was always staggered how little the Dept of Health knew of or understood general practice and now it seems NHS England is similarly informed.
    Lets thank GPs for their hard-work at getting trained up and informed and referring more patients.
    Now all we need is better access to investigations and we can take yet more work off our hard working secondary care colleagues.

  3. Simon Hudson says:

    The early referral rate might be improved further still if GPs were able to better able to seek advice from consultants when they need it, to both identify patients needing an urgent referral and to avoid referring those patients that can be managed in the community.

    NHS England has a published case study on the interesting work Wandsworth CCG has done around this area

    (search for Outpatient Referral)