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Thu 22 Feb 2024

Exponential increase in cancer waiting times year on year

Today, the cancer waiting times in Wales for 2023 are revealed. 

Today’s shocking NHS cancer waiting times reveal 2023 as the worst year on record with almost 10,000 people in Wales now waiting 62 days from point of suspicion to treatment.

Disastrous delays are also continuing to cause serious harm to people diagnosed with cancer across the pathway despite repeated warnings over many years. That is a huge failure with massive repercussions.

We understand there has been a spike in referrals, we also understand the tremendous pressure on the NHS and the effect of recent strikes, but we have repeatedly warned this day would arrive. Not enough has been done to prevent it and there can be no more excuses.

The annual number of people having to wait to start their cancer treatment in Wales last year was higher than 2021 and 2022. Back in 2020 when Covid-19 had its biggest impact, 5,684 people had to wait longer than 62 days. This rises to 7,031 people in 2021, 8,829 by 2022 and 9,625 in 2023.

Today we don’t just have long delays, but the deadly cancer gap is also growing as we see variation in waiting times between health boards. Recent analysis of data found Wales also ranked bottom of a ‘league table’ of similar countries for survival rates of some less survivable cancers, including lung, pancreatic and stomach. The long waiting times are a huge factor in this poor performance and that is truly damning.

Welsh Government has been right to focus on the longest waits, and have been ambitious with targets, but reacting quickly is the key to successfully treating cancer. This trend cannot continue as more and more people with cancer live in fear and uncertainty while they wait for diagnosis and treatment.

Cancer services need urgent attention and have done for many years. The only positive we can take is that we know where we are with our backlog, where we are failing, and where we need to be, but we must also act.

Tenovus Cancer Care will continue to bring the voice of people affected by cancer through our All-Wales Cancer Community to drive the changes needed to make a real difference. Our holistic, person centred range of services are here to support during these difficult times – 0808 808 1010.

Judi Rhys MBE, Chief Executive

If you or someone you love has been affected by cancer, our free Support Line is there for you. Just call 0808 808 1010