NHS Waiting Times For Cancer Treatment Are What Did You Say?


It’s a commonplace that the National Health service is a Wonder of the World. Such a phantastic creation that near no one other than Cuba has bothered to try to replicate the structure. It’s also a commonplace that the NHS is one of the best rated health care systems in the world. By those who measure “best” on such things as equity of financing, equity of treatment. The NHS is also one of the world’s worst rich country health care systems by an entirely reasonable measure of how well it actually works. Mortality amenable to health care treatment is the measure by which the NHS regularly props up the bottom of the league table.

So, a reasonable description of the National Heath Services is fair but faecal.

A useful little measure of which is this:

Almost two in three trusts are missing NHS cancer targets, amid warnings that patients are being put at risk as waiting times grow longer. MPs said patients were facing “unacceptable” and “agonising” delays, with more than half of trusts also forcing patients into long waits for surgery. The report by the Public Accounts Committee accuses health bodies of “a lack of curiosity” about the risks that patients would come to harm as result of increasingly long waiting times.

Not particularly that the targets are being missed. Rather, the paucity of the targets themselves:

The report, published on Wednesday, warns that a key target for cancer patients to receive treatment within two months has not been hit since 2013. Last November, just 38 per cent of trusts achieved the standard. Meanwhile, 44 per cent of trusts hit targets to carry out planned surgery within 18 weeks.

60 days for cancer treatment? Whut?

Fortunately we do in fact have good internationally comparable statistics on one cancer, breast cancer. It happens a lot and treatments around the world are generally the same. Thus we can compare. The median time to treatment in the NHS is 22 days. Median in California is 8, in Canada 11. Oh, and:

Survival from breast cancer in the United Kingdom is lower than in other developed countries.

See, the NHS is bad at actually curing us of what ails us. Which isn’t, when you come to think of it, a recommendation of a health care system, is it?

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