'NHS waiting times have been growing steadily for a number of years and today’s report is another reminder of the extreme pressures the service is under.
'The NAO is right to raise concerns about the impact on patients of longer waits for cancer and planned NHS treatment. There are now over half a million people waiting more than 18 weeks to start consultant-led treatment, up from 150,000 five years ago. For most people, these waits will be uncomfortable and inconvenient, but in some cases they could result in harm and worse outcomes.
'While more patients are being seen than ever before, patients are being added to waiting lists faster than the NHS can treat them. For cancer, quick diagnosis and treatment saves lives. The latest figures show that nearly 25% of people urgently referred for possible cancer did not start treatment within the target 62 days, largely due to delays in diagnosis. It’s therefore unclear how the NHS will be able to meet the new commitment to diagnose cancers within 28 days of an urgent referral.
'As NHS leaders pilot new waiting time targets, it will be important for the service to robustly evaluate any change and to understand the impact on patients and their care.'
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