Many patients are being let down by NHS guidelines on cancer treatment, according to a new study.
Research from BMJ Online First has raised concerns that the 'two-week wait rule' for cancer treatment could be leading to unnecessary delays for those suffering from breast cancer because non-urgent cases are taking priority.
Dr Shelley Potter and her colleagues examined referrals to the Frenchay Breast Care Centre in Bristol between 1999 and 2005 and concluded that many patients referred with routine appointments were found to have cancer, but that treatment had been significantly delayed.
"These patients are also potentially being disadvantaged by longer clinic waits and delays in diagnosis as waiting times for routine referrals have increased in the face of increasing service demands from the dramatically increased number of patients referred under the two week rule, over 90 per cent of whom have benign disease," explained the report.
It is likely that ongoing delays in cancer treatment could encourage more people to seek private treatment and diagnosis in order to ensure they receive the fastest care possible.