Macmillan highlights how improving cancer care is set to become a true litmus test of Wales’ new First Minister

Macmillan highlights how improving cancer care is set to become a true litmus test of Wales’ new First Minister

Glenn Page, Policy and Public Affairs Manager at Macmillan Cancer Support, says: 

“Once again Wales’ cancer treatment target has been missed, with hundreds of people with cancer being left to face the anxiety of what, for some, could potentially be life-threatening delays to their treatment. 

“This is one of the worst performances on record. That is why improving cancer treatment waiting times and reducing waiting lists is now set to become a true litmus test of the leadership provided by Wales’ new First Minister. 

“Hardworking healthcare professionals in Wales are running on empty, doing everything they can in a system that needs urgent reform. This can’t go on. It’s time the Welsh government made good on the promises of its Cancer Improvement Plan by delivering real change and improvement within cancer care.  

“If you or someone you love is affected by cancer, we’re here, whatever you need to ask. Call Macmillan’s free Support Line on 0808 808 00 00, open every day, 8am to 8pm.” 


Key facts 

  • In February 2024, more than 800 people with cancer in Wales waited more than 62 days to start treatment from first being suspected of having cancer – this was almost half (47%) of those who started treatment in that monthi 
  • The national cancer waiting times target in Wales was missed again in February, and performance fell for a second month in a row to the second worst level on record, showing that NHS cancer services in Wales are still struggling under intense pressureii 
  • Recent Macmillan analysis shows 2023 was the worst year on record for cancer waiting times in Walesiii 
  • The national cancer waiting times target in Wales has never been met since first being introduced, and an interim recovery target set by the Welsh Government has also been missediv 
  • For some cancer types, performance remains even more concerning. For example, in February 2024 only 31.6% of people with urological cancer, 31.8% of those with lower gastrointestinal cancer and 32.2% of those with gynaecological cancer started their treatment on time – for urological cancer this is the worst level on record, and for lower gastrointestinal cancer this is the second worst on recordv  

i Figures based on Suspected Cancer Pathways data from StatsWales, accessed 18th April 2024. In February 2024, 53.4% of people with cancer in Wales (938 out of 1,756) started their first definitive treatment within 62 days of first being suspected of cancer. This was 1.3 percentage points lower than the previous month, as well as 0.9 percentage points lower than February 2023, and means 818 people in Wales were left waiting too long in February 2024 

ii As per ref 1 

iii As per ref 1. Overall performance for 2023 was 0.4 percentage points lower than 2022 making it the worst cancer waiting times performance on record in Wales. Across the whole of 2022, 56.2% of people were treated within the 62 days target. In 2023, 55.9% of people started treatment within the 62 days target time  

iv At least 75% of patients should start treatment within 62 days (without suspensions) of first being suspected of cancer. Data published for time periods before December 2020 are not subject to the target. The Welsh Government’s planned care recovery plan established a new target of 80%, to be reached by 2026.  Those targets have never been met, and an interim recovery target that cancer diagnosis and treatment would be undertaken within 62 days for 70% of people by March 2023 was also missed 

v As per ref 1 

Stu Hodges

Communications Manager

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