Opinion: Cancer patients in Northampton are facing some of the longest waits - urgent action is needed

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Latest data shows that some local patients are waiting 219 days to start cancer treatment, putting lives at risk. Labour's Lucy Rigby calls for urgent action to restore our NHS to health.

As the Government announced that it is now set to cut two thirds of existing cancer waiting times standards for patients, data has revealed that patients at Northampton General NHS Trust are facing some of the longest waits for cancer care. The data shows that some local patients are forced to wait 219 days to start cancer treatment – well over half a year.

Patients are waiting up to 34 days to see a cancer specialist after their GP has urgently referred them to hospital and up to 164days for a diagnosis.

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Unfortunately, those numbers put Northampton in the worst third of all the NHS trusts that responded to a freedom of information request regarding the number of days patients wait to start treatment.

Lucy Rigby at Northampton General Hospital.Lucy Rigby at Northampton General Hospital.
Lucy Rigby at Northampton General Hospital.

This is absolutely not the fault of any of the incredible professionals that staff our local hospital, who work round the clock to serve local people. I’ve spoken to staff at NGH, and in our ambulance service too, who’ve told me about the real stresses and strains that they’re operating under at the moment. Rather these long cancer waits are the fault of the Government, who make the ultimate decisions about the running and staffing of our NHS.

The reality is that waiting times for cancer patients in England have worsened every year since the Conservatives came to power in 2010 and the latest figures revealed that the NHS met none of its cancer targets in June 2023.

Long cancer waits put lives in danger. It’s as simple as that. The right response to these appalling statistics isn’t to try and do away with the standards so failings can be swept under the carpet. Frankly it’s shocking that any responsible Government would respond to this crisis in cancer care like that.

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We desperately need to get cancer patients diagnosed and treated on time again. That’s why the Labour Party has committed to cut cancer waiting times down to safe levels.

That means delivering better cancer care, including by training thousands more doctors and nurses every year, providing NHS staff with up-to-date, modern technology, and reforming the health service so more and more cancer patients can ensure their cancer is caught earlier.

This current neglect of our NHS and public health cannot go on. We urgently need a change of direction and to restore our NHS to health.