Cancer Treatment Delays Expose Problems In UK’s National Health Service

Virginia Kruta Associate Editor
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Recent statistics indicate that cancer patients being treated by Great Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) are being subjected to wait times outside the recommended limit of 62 days from referral to first treatment.

According to research, patients who are diagnosed quickly and begin treatment within 62 days are far more likely to complete treatment with positive results — and England has a stated goal of ensuring that at least 85 percent of all patients referred to cancer specialists received their first treatments within that window.

However, that goal has not been met since December of 2015. Since 2014, the NHS has fallen short of that goal in all but three months — and in January of 2017, over 20 percent of patients reported waiting more than two months to begin treatment. For the total year of 2017, some 28,000 patients waited longer than two months and 11,000 patients waited longer than three months.

That trend appears to have continued, as numbers for June and July of 2018 show that under 80 percent of patients began treatment in under 62 days.

In spite of delays, the NHS does report increased survival rates of cancer patients — which they say can be attributed to numerous advances in the range and types of treatments available. The delays, they claim, come from an increase in referrals without a matching increase in the number of treatment providers and diagnosticians.

Those particular issues — increased wait times and a decreasing number of practitioners — have both been raised by opponents of socialized medicine, particularly in the United States.

And when contrasted, according to data compiled as recently as 2017, red flags went up in the U.S. when cancer wait times stretched from 21 days to 29 between diagnosis and first treatment.

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