FEWER than four in 10 patients with urological cancer, including prostate cancer, started treatment within the two-month target window at Pennine Acute Hospitals Trust in July, new figures show.
Prostate Cancer UK said it is critical that men most at risk of their cancer progressing are prioritised for treatment across England while NHS services work to restore their normal service.
As most men with early prostate cancer do not show symptoms, the charity is urging all men at higher risk of developing what is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the UK to contact their GP.
NHS targets state 85 per cent of urological cancer patients – which includes those with prostate, bladder, kidney and penile cancers – should be treated within 62 days.
But NHS England figures show only eight of the 21 urological cancer patients (38%) in July at Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs Fairfield General, started treatment within 62 days of an urgent GP referral. That was down from 67 per cent in July 2019.
Across England, just 67 per cent of people treated for urological cancers received their first treatment within this period in July, though this was an increase on the 56 per cent treated in June.
Karen Stalbow, head of policy at Prostate Cancer UK, said: “It’s good news that waiting times for urological referrals are beginning to recover, although there are still up to 1,500 fewer men being seen compared to the same period last year.
“We know that clinicians now need to balance a man’s prostate cancer risk with his risk of contracting Covid-19.
“Cancer services are also operating at reduced capacity because of the need to socially distance patients and clean equipment.
“While most localised prostate cancers are slow growing, it is critical that men most at risk of their cancer progressing are treated as a priority while the NHS continues to work hard to restore their normal service.”
The charity said men at increased risk – over-50s, black men, or those whose father or brother had the disease – should call their GP.
In Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, 55 per cent of all cancer patients received their first treatment within 62 days in July.
This was compared to 78 per cent across England, which Sara Bainbridge, head of policy at Macmillan Cancer Support, said reflects a “worrying backlog”.
She added: “Behind each statistic is a real person whose prognosis and treatment options could be severely impacted by disruption during Covid-19.
“It’s vital that people see their GP if they have symptoms, and anyone who is worried about cancer needs to know that they’ll be seen promptly and safely.”
An NHS spokesman said: “Hospitals have successfully treated nearly 38,000 men for urological cancer since the beginning of the pandemic, and more people are now coming forward for a cancer check, with 100,000 extra referrals in July compared to April.
“The key point remains that anyone worried about a possible symptom should contact their GP to get checked.”