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Plans to scrap NHS cancer targets play ‘fast and lose’ with vulnerable patients

“DEEPLY worrying” plans to scrap most NHS cancer treatment targets will put more lives at risk, health campaigners warned today.

Among them is the two-week wait for patients to see a specialist for suspected cancer following an urgent GP referral.

New plans known as the Faster Diagnosis Standard propose that patients in England who have been urgently referred should have cancer ruled out or receive a diagnosis within 28 days instead.

The current two-week wait sets no expectation of when patients should receive test results or have a confirmed diagnosis, according to a consultation on the changes expected to be announced in the coming days.

NHS England claimed its plan to cut the number of targets, most of which have been routinely missed in recent years, from nine to three has been backed by leading cancer experts and will simplify “outdated” standards.

Oncologist Professor Pat Price, co-founder of the #CatchUpWithCancer campaign, warned the potential new targets were “ominous and deeply worrying.”

She said: “The performance against the current targets is shockingly bad and has been for many, many months now, deteriorating over years.

“While we agree chasing too many targets can be disruptive and divert resources away from the main patient 62-day treatment target, poor performance is not as a result of how we are measuring it.

“The clear and simple truth is that we are not investing enough in cancer treatment capacity and getting the whole cancer pathway working.”

Keep Our NHS Public co-chairman Dr Tony O’Sullivan told the Morning Star: “The government trying to spin the standard amount of time potential cancer patients will now have to wait as some sort of improvement only adds insult to injury.

“More lives will be put at risk as a result of these proposed delays.

“The UK is already falling behind on cancer targets, with targets not being met since 2015 as a result of a sustained lack of government investment in the NHS.

“The appropriate response to a service that is failing to meet vital targets should be to invest more time and resources, not to simply move the goalposts and give up on the targets altogether.

“The government is playing fast and loose here with the lives of people at some of the most difficult times in their lives — it is wholly unacceptable.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the government was “moving the goalposts.”


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