Beating bowel cancer together

Fewer than four in 10 welsh bowel cancer patients begin treatment on time

Friday 18 February 2022

Figures published by NHS Wales (Thursday 17 February 2022) show that fewer than four in 10 patients (37.1%) started treatment for lower gastrointestinal cancer (including bowel cancer) within 62 days of being referred.

The figures, which are for December 2021, also show that none of the Health Boards in Wales met the 75% target for starting treatment within 62 days of first being suspected of cancer.

The total number of people who either started cancer treatment during the month, or were told they do not have cancer was 2,409.

As these figures are for December, we now have an overall picture for 2021 which shows that performance against the target of 75% improved from January to May (61.8%) but since then it has been on a downward trend falling as low as 34.6% in September and hasn't been above 50% since May.

The coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on bowel cancer services, and endoscopies for all but emergency and essential reasons were initially paused. NHS staff have worked incredibly hard to restart these services but the pause has led to a growing backlog in patients waiting to be seen, diagnosed or start treatment.

Dr Lisa Wilde, Director of Research and External Affairs, says: "Bowel cancer is the second biggest cancer killer in Wales, but it's treatable and curable, especially if diagnosed early. It's utterly heartbreaking that some patients will face poorer outcomes as a result of having to wait too long before starting treatment.

"NHS Wales staff has worked incredibly hard to deliver cancer services under great strain, and they desperately need the support of the Welsh Government to provide funding so the targets set out in the Cancer Quality Statement can be met. We want to see the Welsh Government provide additional funds to prioritise the workforce and kit required to improve cancer diagnosis without delay."

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