A THIRD of cancer patients in Somerset are forced to wait more than the NHS's 62-day target before their treatment begins, data shows.

From December 14, 2023, the cancer waiting time statistics were updated to reflect the new operating framework for October 2023 data onwards.

The NHS operates on a target of at most 62 days to begin treatment after cancer is diagnosed. 

 However, only 67.11% of diagnosed patients overseen by the Somerset NHS Foundation Trust are currently treated within this timeframe.

This figure means cancer patients in Somerset have the 76th longest wait time in England and Wales, out of a total 151 NHS trusts.

Only seven of the trusts had a 100% record of meeting the nationwide target.

The Somerset NHS Foundation Trust has urged the public to continue to seek advice from a GP in the case of possible cancer symptoms, regardless of the figures.

It is hoped that the recent approval for the construction of a new diagnostic centre in Yeovil will help to ensure more patients are treated within the 62-day target window.

Mr David Milliken, a consultant gynaecological oncologist and clinical lead for cancer at Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, said: "Over the last year, a number of high-profile celebrities have continued to publicly share their cancer diagnosis, which has prompted higher numbers of people to visit their GP with suspected cancer, something which has been replicated in many parts of the country.

"With this higher level of demand on our services, we are working hard to increase our diagnostic capacity through centres such as the Taunton Diagnostic Centre, with planning recently approved for a similar centre set to open in Yeovil next winter.

"Since July 2023 we have been providing more than 75% of patients with a diagnosis, which either rules out or confirms cancer, within 28 days of being referred with a suspected cancer.

"This meets the national Faster Diagnosis Standard, but we are still working to improve this further, as we know that waiting for a diagnosis is a really anxious time for patients.

"We are also continuing to treat patients within clinically appropriate timescales and aim to treat as many patients as possible within 62 days of referral.

"Our advice to the public is to be aware of the possible symptoms of cancer and seek advice from your GP if you are concerned.

"In most cases, the cause of any symptoms you experience is not cancer, but it’s important to get these symptoms checked as diagnosing cancer at an early stage means we are more likely to be able to treat it successfully."