an urgent review into breast services across West Yorkshire has been triggered after new figures reveal patients are facing delays seeing specialists at top hospitals in the region. Four in five patients with suspected breast cancer are facing delays seeing specialists after a dramatic deterioration in waiting times.
The Yorkshire Post can today reveal more than 1,000 patients waited beyond the official 14-day NHS deadline in the three months to June in Leeds after being urgently referred with suspicious symptoms.
The delays - among the worst in England - come amid significant wider pressures on breast services across West Yorkshire. Delays are blamed on shortages of doctors, staff sickness and higher-than-average referral rates.
A charity described the performance as “shocking”, and warned cash and staff shortages were “stretching the NHS to breaking point”.
Figures show only one in five of 1,300 women referred with suspected breast cancer in Leeds were seen within 14 days between April and June.
A total of 319 patients waited between three and four weeks for specialist appointments - and 51 faced waits of more than 28 days.
The performance is the second worst in the country behind only hospitals in Essex, where one in 10 patients were given tests within two weeks against the national target of 93 per cent, with the NHS trust based in Lincoln also performing poorly.
Gunes Kalkan, of Breast Cancer Care, said: “These shocking figures are intensely troubling as the sooner breast cancer is diagnosed and treatment begins, the more effective it may be.
“Finding a breast change is utterly terrifying - we constantly hear from women overwhelmed with fear about a lump or inverted nipple - and being made to wait longer for a potential diagnosis will cause huge anxiety, severely impacting day-to-day life.
“Underfunding and staff shortages are stretching the NHS to breaking point. “To curb delays and ensure women are not left in limbo, more needs to be done to ease the burden.”
Figures show 88 per cent of women in England saw a specialist within two weeks of an urgent referral for suspected breast cancer in the three months to June amid a significant rise in delays across all cancers.
In Leeds, 33 per cent of suspected breast cancer patients were seen within 14 days in April but performance slumped to only 13 per cent in May and 15 per cent in June.
Waits have dramatically worsened since the same period last year when 97 per cent of patients were seen within two weeks in Leeds.
Delays in the city are being blamed on shortages of doctors, staff sickness and higher-than-average referral rates. But official papers reveal wider pressures on breast services across West Yorkshire and Harrogate have triggered an “urgent review” of capacity by NHS chiefs due to be completed within weeks.