A total of 91.1% of patients received their first treatment for cancer a month after the decision to treat was made – falling below the NHS’ operational target of 96%, according to the latest NHS England data on cancer waiting lists for December.
NHS waiting lists numbers also showed stagnation in the time to receive care and diagnosis, with figures showing that while the backlog slightly eased by 6,266 through December there are still 7.6 million people waiting for a diagnosis or waiting to receive the treatment they need.
That compares to a total of 7 million people one year ago and 4.41 million in December 2019 before the pandemic.
Brett Hill, head of health and protection at independent consultancy Broadstone, (pictured) said: “The King’s shock cancer diagnosis has refocused attention towards the importance of early detection and prompt treatment for serious medical conditions.
“With more and more people unable to access timely treatment and diagnosis for their health concerns, it is an unfortunate reality that opportunities are being missed to catch some serious conditions at an early stage, which ultimately will lead to longer, more complex treatment needs and poorer outcomes.
“This is leading to a surge in private medical insurance take-up (and admissions) driven predominantly by employers rolling out private healthcare to more of their employees to better support the health of their workforce.
“Given the struggles the NHS currently faces, providing access to cancer screening, general health checks, and other preventative measures is a crucial first line of defence for businesses against rising sickness absence rates and the reduced productivity that results from poor health.”