POSTED: May 13 2019
NHS continues to struggle to meet cancer targets

NHS continues to struggle to meet cancer targets

The NHS 62 day target to receive treatment after an urgent GP referral was breached again in March 2019, resulting in almost 2,700 people waiting longer than two months to start their cancer treatment.

NHS England’s Cancer Waiting Times results for March 2019 confirms that less than 80% (2) of patients in England started treatment within the 62 day target against the target of 85% after having been urgently referred by their GP.(1)

Since January 2014, when the target was first breached, over 136,000 patients have waited longer than 62 days to start treatment and has has now been breached for 39 months in a row. (1)

Three in five NHS hospital trusts in England (60%) missed their target in March 2019, with 35 trusts, nearly one in four, missing it by 10 percentage points or more. (1,5)

The two-week wait from urgent GP referral to first consultant appointment was also breached in March 2019 (91.83% against the target of 93%). This has now been breached for 10 out of the past 12 months. (3,4)

Responding to NHS England’s Cancer Waiting Times results for March 2019, Dr Moira Fraser-Pearce, Director of Policy at Macmillan Cancer Support, says: “Behind these figures are real people who tell us how delays cause real anxiety for them and their loved ones at a time when they are already trying to deal with the many worries cancer is throwing their way.

“Today’s results show things are not getting much better and are symptomatic of an overstretched cancer workforce. We urgently need the government to deliver a fully funded plan to ensure we have enough staff in the NHS with the right skills to provide patients with the right care at the right time.”

Previous Macmillan research shows that nearly two thirds (64%) of people recently diagnosed with cancer in England have experienced feelings of anxiety, fear or depression whilst waiting for their treatment to start. (6)



  1. Refers to the 62-day Wait from GP Urgent Referral to a First Treatment for Cancer cancer waiting times target. NHS England. Cancer waiting times — National Time Series Oct 2009 — March 2019 (Provider based) (Accessed May 2019)
  2. Exact percentage is 79.65%
  3. Refers to the Two Week Wait From GP Urgent Referral to First Consultant Appointment. As per reference 1.
  4. Refers to April 2018 — March 2019 inclusive.
  5. This refers to all provider trusts at which 5 or more patients started cancer treatment in March 2019, which amounts to 142 trusts in total.
  6. Macmillan Cancer Support/YouGov survey of 1,020 adults in the UK with a previous cancer diagnosis. Fieldwork was undertaken between 5th and 14th October 2016. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of the living with cancer population. Results quoted are based on the 184 respondents in England diagnosed within the last two years.