Wales

NHS Wales stands out on improved cancer waiting times

Cancer patient Image copyright Ridofranz/Getty Images

Wales is the only UK nation to have seen an improvement in its cancer waiting times over the last five years.

Analysis by the BBC shows 87.3% of patients were seen within two months in 2017-18.

This is an improvement from 85.8% in 2012-13. However, it is still below its target of 95%.

NHS England has a lower target of 85% but still failed to hit it, with only 82.4% seen within 61 days.

In Wales, of the 7,525 patients in the last year, 6,566 were seen within 62 days and 959 waited longer.

The analysis compares performance with 2012-13 across the UK.

The number of UK patients having to wait more than two months for cancer treatment, after being urgently referred, has risen by 81% in the past five years.

But in Wales the numbers have risen by 22%, compared to a jump of 76% in England, 138% in Northern Ireland and a 180% increase in Scotland.

Analysis by Owain Clarke, BBC Wales health correspondent

All too often when comparisons are made on NHS performance across the UK nations, the headlines talk about Wales lagging behind. On waiting times for planned treatment, on A&E performance. There's a truth in that.

But the Welsh Government has always insisted that with cancer care, Wales is not only holding its own but doing better than the other health systems. And this new analysis shows clearly that is the case.

But does that mean there are no challenges in terms of care? Not at all. We know survival rates are amongst the poorest in Europe and there is a big gap between the chances of surviving cancer in our richest and poorest communities. So there is still much to do.

Read Owain's Q&A on cancer in Wales

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Single cancer waiting times for Wales

Wales, along with Scotland and Northern Ireland, has a target of 95% of cancer patients starting treatment within 61 days of diagnosis.

The last time NHS Wales as a whole hit this target was 10 years ago.

But there are different performances between health boards in Wales. Hywel Dda last hit the target in December 2009. Although Cardiff and Vale was the last health board to hit the cancer target in July last year it is now the worst performing in Wales.

Health Secretary Vaughan Gething said the comparative figures were good news but it was not a time to rest.

"We're not satisfied with our position, we're pleased to be ahead of the UK pack but there's much more to do and - along with the rest of the UK - we're at the wrong end of cancer outcomes across Europe," he said.

Richard Pugh, head of services for Macmillan in Wales said there was a "sad reality" behind the statistic that Wales had not met its two month cancer treatment target since 2008.

He said thousands of people in Wales were being left to "face the fear and the risk that their health will deteriorate further, that is caused by delays in their cancer treatment".

"Getting the right treatment, at the right time, has a huge impact on what outcomes can be achieved," he added.

"We need to see far earlier diagnosis, and much more timely treatment, and we are seeing this coming through as priority as part of the effort into the single cancer pathway, which is crucial if we are to do the best for people with cancer in Wales."

England has a lower target of 85% although it managed to hit it five years ago. It now has another 11,640 patients waiting longer.

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