Cancer patients facing delays to treatment in Preston
The Royal College of Surgeons warned that hospitals are continuing to struggle to reduce long waiting lists for planned treatment.
Hospitals are meant to start cancer treatment within 62 days of an urgent GP referral, with the target stating that 85 per cent of patients should start within this timeframe.
But figures for January show that just 71.9 per cent of cancer patients were treated within the target period at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.
It is a similar story across England, where just 76.2 per cent of cancer patients were treated within the two-month target, the lowest proportion on record. The target has not been met since December 2015.
Across the NHS, 227,569 patients have been waiting more than six months for treatment, with 36,857 others waiting more than nine months, figures show.
The RCS said these represent 31 per cent and 39 per cent increases respectively on the same period last year.
The number of people waiting for treatment is at its highest level since October, with 4.16 million people in January waiting to start treatment.
Professor Derek Alderson, president of the RCS, said: "The backlog of patients waiting to start treatment continues to grow.
"There are now over 100,000 more patients waiting longer than 18 weeks to start treatment when compared with the same time last year.”
Dr Fran Woodard, executive director of policy and impact at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: "January 2019 marks five years since the 62-day cancer target was first missed and despite the best efforts of hard-working NHS staff, more than 127,000 people have been left waiting too long to start vital treatment throughout that time."
An NHS spokeswoman said: "More people than ever before are coming forward for cancer checks, with a quarter of a million more people getting checked for cancer this year and thousands more being treated within the two-month target.
"NHS England is investing an additional £10 million this year to treat extra people and the NHS Long Term Plan sets out a range of ambitious measures to catch more cancers earlier, which will save thousands of lives every year."