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One in four women with suspected breast cancer waiting more than two weeks for specialist NHS appointment

One in four women with suspected breast cancer are waiting longer than the two-week target to see a specialist despite an urgent referral, figures show.

NHS England data from spring this year shows 77 per cent of women were seen by a consultant within two weeks of being referred by their GP.

That leaves almost one in four (23.2 per cent) women with suspected breast cancer waiting more than the two weeks target – and in some regions, including London, this figure was as high as almost one in three.

The capital was the worst performing region for urgent breast cancer referrals, with just 68 per cent of women with seen within 14 days.

NHS England targets stipulate that a patient referred to a specialist with possible breast cancer should receive an appointment within 14 days.

Referrals for gynaecological cancer cases were even lower – with 72 per cent of patients referred within two weeks.

By comparison, 86 per cent of men with suspected testicular cancer were referred to a specialist within the timeframe.

Breast cancer screening figures also show that more than a third (34.7 per cent) of eligible women have not been screened in the past three years. This is a marked increase from 2019-20 when a quarter of eligible women (25.8 per cent) had not been screened.

The breast screening programme invites all women from the age of 50 to 70 registered with a GP for screening every three years.

And almost a quarter of women in England (23.7 per cent) requiring a non-obstetric ultrasound used to diagnose many gynaecological conditions were waiting for over six weeks.

Waiting times for women vary depending on where in England they live. In the Midlands, for example, more than one in three women are waiting six weeks or more.

And, while around one in 14 (7.2 per cent) women wait more than 13 weeks for non-obstetric ultrasound nationally, the rate is more than double in the South East – where one in seven experience the longer delay.

Anneliese Dodds, Labour’s shadow Women and Equalities Secretary, accused the Government of “deprioritising women’s health.”

“The Conservatives’ deprioritisation of women’s health is deeply concerning and downright dangerous. Thanks to the Tories running down our NHS, thousands of women will have to wait weeks in pain, fear and discomfort, for urgent appointments, scans or procedures. And of course, in some cases, the impact of these delays will be very serious indeed,” she said.

“Labour will provide the staff, technology, and reform the health service needs, to build an NHS fit for the future and to end the scandalous deprioritisation of women’s health.”

Gynaecological waiting lists have trebled in the past decade and twice as many women had to wait more than a year for gynaecological treatment than in 2021.

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