Macmillan Wales warns many people with cancer are facing anxious and unacceptable waits for their treatment, as new statistics reveal around 1,200 people in Wales didn’t start their cancer treatment on time in a year.
The warning follows publication of the annual cancer waiting times report, which reveals information on cancer waiting times from across each health board in Wales. An estimated 100 people in Wales did not start their cancer treatment on time every month between 2017 and 2018.
The report shows only 87.2 per cent of patients started urgent treatment within the target time of 62 days during 2017-18 – well below the 95 per cent target set by Welsh Government. The 31-day target was also missed.
Richard Pugh, Head of Services for Macmillan in Wales said:
“This report shows some worrying trends in cancer care – not only is Wales consistently failing to meet its cancer treatment targets, there is also significant variation in how quickly people with different types of cancer are being treated.
“We know early diagnosis and timely treatment can make a huge difference to the outcomes for people with cancer, but the report shows around 1,200 people with cancer in Wales did not start their treatment on time between 2017 and 2018.
“Delays in treatment cause unimaginable stress and anxiety for people with cancer, and their loved ones, and can have a direct impact on people’s long-term health.
“We must see urgent improvement and, to achieve this, we need to see a commitment to early diagnosis, ensuring we have the right cancer care workforce and the right IT systems, to support the growing number of people with cancer in Wales to start their treatment on time.
“Only recently we welcomed the Welsh Government’s announcement that Wales was to become the first UK nation to introduce a new single waiting time target – a development designed to offer quicker diagnosis and treatment to cancer patients.
“What is vitally important now, is how well and how quickly this change can deliver tangible front-line service improvements within cancer care services in Wales.”
Wendy Edwards from Swansea was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2017. She said: “My diagnosis took eight months from the first test. Even longer if you include the months and months of back-and-forth to my local GP which took place over the course of the year before.
“That was eight months of anxiety, stress and depression. Eight months of desperately counting the days, weeks and months between consultant appointments, CT scans, PET scans and biopsies. There were times that I simply couldn’t stop crying, and I never felt free of the worry.
“I understand my cancer was complicated to diagnose, but while the health professionals I met through my treatment were fantastic, I think much more needs to be done not just to speed-up but also to simplify cancer diagnosis and treatment.
“The government needs to understand that behind every delay is a person not only trying to cope with their own worry, their own fear and anxiety, but quite often trying to manage the same for their loved ones as well.”