Tories scrap 2 weeks cancer waiting times target – new boost for health privateers

Junior Doctors on the picket line at the Royal London Hospital in east London yesterday morning were fighting for full pay restoration and to defend the NHS

THE TORIES stepped up their onslaught on the NHS yesterday with the announcement of the scrapping of the requirement for patients with suspected cancer to have a first appointment with a specialist NHS consultant within two weeks of referral.

In fact, the Tories are scrapping two-thirds of NHS cancer waiting time targets in England, claiming they are ‘outdated’.

Pat Price, an oncologist and visiting professor at Imperial College, London, who is also the head of the Radiotherapy UK charity said she is ‘deeply worried’, adding that current performance is ‘shockingly bad’ and that ‘the clear and simple truth is that we are not investing enough in cancer treatment capacity’.

Labour shadow health secretary Wes Streeting accused the Tories of creating a cancer care crisis and leaving patients waiting ‘dangerously long’.

Naser Turabi, Cancer Research UK director of evidence and implementation, said: ‘Despite the best efforts of NHS staff, it’s incredibly worrying that cancer waiting times in England are once again amongst the worst on record.’

He blamed ‘years of underinvestment’ by the government.

Anna Athow, a BMA member and a retired surgeon told News Line: ‘To abolish the two week wait for GP referrals to consultants for patients with suspected breast cancer is a huge blow to breast cancer patients.

‘Generally speaking, breast cancer consultants receive half their referrals from breast screening which tends to be the earlier and smaller cancers and the other half from GPs in patients who have symptoms or signs of breast cancer. These tend to be more advanced.

‘It is absolutely unacceptable to take away the requirement that the patient should be seen by a consultant within two weeks of GP referral with suspected breast cancer.

‘Cancer has to be treated as quickly as possible. Many require surgery which should be done within three or four weeks of referral.

‘Of course this should continue and it’s a sign of the times that the Tory government is spending NHS money on outsourcing aspects of care – elective operations and diagnostic tests – to the private sector, instead of maintaining investment in NHS first class cancer care.

‘The sooner this Tory government goes the better, as they are clearly wrecking essential NHS services, not paying the staff the money they need and denying essential care, specifically now cancer care, in addition to emergency care and maternity care which they are also wrecking.’