1,800 people with cancer in Wales would survive extra six months if diagnosis and treatment were done on time, analysis shows

NEW analysis from Macmillan Cancer Support suggests around 1,800 people with cancer in Wales would survive an extra six months or more if targets were met and people were diagnosed and treated on time


Latest research from the charity shows that cancer waiting times remained unacceptably high in Wales in the first half of 2023.
Healthcare systems are unable to cope with demand despite the best efforts of exhausted staff.
It doesn’t have to be this way; Macmillan is calling on governments across the UK to take cancer seriously and improve outcomes for people living with cancer giving them more time with loved ones and their families.
Today Macmillan Cancer Support is publishing new analysis that shows around 1,800 people living with cancer in Wales could have precious extra months with loved ones if cancer waiting times targets were hit (see ‘key facts’ below)[i]. Following the latest findings, produced in partnership with health analytics company LCP, the leading cancer charity is calling on the Welsh Government to take cancer seriously by addressing the staffing crisis to ensure people are diagnosed and treated quickly. By doing this, politicians can give more people living with cancer the gift of time.


More people are being referred for cancer tests than ever before but too many people are facing long waits and delays for diagnosis and treatment. Additional analysis from the charity shows waiting times for cancer diagnosis and treatment remained unacceptably high in Wales in the first half of 2023[ii].


The research also found that the number of people waiting too long to start treatment in Wales has increased at a greater rate than the total number of people starting treatment[iii]. Macmillan describes this is as indicative of a system in crisis, and says that people need and deserve to receive the best possible care rather than agonising waits that turn lives upside down, both mentally and physically. The charity says politicians from across the UK have failed to act for too long and support is needed now more than ever.


Talking about the direct impact that long waits have on cancer patients, other figures from Macmillan show more than one in four (28%) people who have been diagnosed with cancer in Wales in the past 10 years have experienced long waits or delays[iv]. Among those affected by delays, one in seven (15%) said that they believe this has led to their cancer getting worse, and a similar figure (15%) said that long waits have meant that they’ve had to put their ‘entire lives on hold’[v].


Richard Pugh, Head of Partnerships for Macmillan Cancer Support in Wales said: “The situation for people with cancer is heartbreaking. Staff across Wales’ health systems are working tirelessly but are at breaking point. The failure of governmental support across Wales and the UK has left health services fractured and people living with cancer are left paying the price.

“This is categorically unacceptable and entirely avoidable; it doesn’t have to be this way. If politicians stepped into action and waiting times targets were hit, around 1,800 people with cancer in Wales would survive an extra 6 months or more, giving them precious time with friends and family. If this doesn’t strike a chord with our government, what will?


“Politicians, what are you waiting for? You have pledged to treat 80% of people with cancer on time by 2026, yet right now Wales is consistently leaving almost half, or one in two people with cancer to face devasting delays in their care. To make that 80% ambition a reality rather than a cruel fiction, we need to see sustainable funding put in place for investment into the cancer workforce. By investing in this, you are investing in the future of people living with cancer – you are investing in giving people with cancer those vital extra days, weeks and months with their loved ones.”


Macmillan is now urging politicians to listen and act by asking: ‘what are you waiting for?’ and is calling on governments across the UK to take urgent action to ensure that cancer services have the right resources in place to meet the ever-increasing demand now and in the years to come. This includes investing in roles such extra admin support, link workers and care coordinators to help ensure people can quickly receive the care they need, when they need it.

By investing in the future of cancer services, people living with cancer could be getting diagnosed and treated quicker, giving them more time, and ultimately saving lives. Macmillan has already had over 12,000 people sign up to its campaign to cut waiting lists. To pile further pressure on politicians, people can sign up to support the campaign at macmillan.org.uk/whatarewewaitingfor.


Macmillan will do whatever it takes to support people through long waits and delays to cancer treatment. For anyone concerned about delays, whatever the question, Macmillan is at the end of the phone and online to provide vital support. Call the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00 or visit macmillan.org.uk


Key facts

New analysis carried out for Macmillan by health analytics company LCP suggests that if the national 62-day target was achieved for 80% of patients in Wales by March 2026 instead of continuing to decline, around 1,800 people diagnosed with cancer over the next 5 years would survive at least an extra six months[vi]

However, in Wales, performance against the single national cancer waiting times target fell to a new record low in January 2023, and remained worse between February and June 2023 than the same time last year. While performance improved slightly in July and August, it worsened again in September[vii]
The number of people with cancer in Wales waiting too long to start treatment has also increased at a greater rate than the total number of people starting treatment in recent years[viii]

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