Given the fact that any delay between diagnosis and treatment can be a potentially life threatening for cancer patients, it has now been revealed that patients with bladder cancer are having to wait almost five months, or approximately 150 days for treatment, far beyond the 62 days that National Health Service rules say is the longest delay anyone should face.
Why is this ?
Well, apparently, people with the disease have been forced to endure this long wait because of a “loophole” in NHS cancer waiting time guidance. This flaw in the guidance means a patient who has had a biopsy, which is a surgical, diagnostic procedure requiring the patient being anaesthetised, is counted as having been 'treated' and thus the 62-day countdown stops and their clock begins again at day one, even though their cancer may have spread and they require further treatment. When that happens they may not undergo treatment for many weeks and sometimes for months.
'NHS Improvement', the health service regulator, acknowledged the problem in a report last year. It found that bladder cancer patients were waiting up to 144 days after being referred to undergo surgery or radiotherapy to tackle their invasive disease.
"I am concerned that this loophole is hiding the true picture of patient waits, concealing the fact that patients with bladder cancer are having to wait nearly five months for their first treatment.” He went on : “However, if the cancer is more advanced, there can be further cancer tissue in the body and patients will, invariably, then need definitive treatment of the cancer, such as surgery or radiotherapy.”
“Despite the best efforts of NHS staff cancer patients – including patients diagnosed with bladder cancer – are waiting for more than two months to be treated for cancer after an urgent GP referral. Staff shortages are harming the NHS’s ability to diagnose cancer quickly and at an earlier stage.” In fact, waiting times for cancer treatment in England are among the longest they have been since records began.
Having undergone a cystectomy for bladder cancer, preceded by a course of chemotherapy, as a cancer patient, I know from experience that feeling that in my treatment, time was of the essence because, like rust, the bad guys never sleep. I am only thankful that my own treatment in 2016 preceded the emergence of the more recent loophole, which has given rise to the delay in treatment for too many today.