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Government criticised after west London hospitals fail to meet bowel cancer patient waiting time targets

Research charity Bowel Cancer UK says hospitals must be given resources and capacity to meet waiting time standards

Hospitals in west London are failing to meet target waiting times for tests that could diagnose bowel cancer.

The NHS says not more than one per cent of patients should wait more than six weeks for tests.

But that figure was nearly a third of patients for certain tests at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs hospitals in west London including Charing Cross, Hammersmith and St Mary’s.

Tests to diagnose bowel cancer are usually taken in two forms - the colonoscopy and flexible sigmoidoscopy, with Imperial lagging in both counts, with 31% of patients waiting more than the six-week target for the former.

A flexible sigmoidoscopy is an endoscopy procedure which sees a camera on a thin, flexible cable inserted through the anus to look at different parts of the bowel.

Again, Imperial leads the list in London delays, with 16% of patients waiting more than six weeks for a flexible sigmoidoscopy.

Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital in Chelsea and West Middlesex Hospital in Isleworth, comes next with 12% of patients not seen within the target time.

Delays in bowel cancer checks at hospitals in west London must be addressed, a leading charity says(Image: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images/Cancer Research UK)

Research charity Bowel Cancer UK says the disease is the second biggest cancer killer in the UK, but is treatable and curable if diagnosed early.

Asha Kaur, head of policy and campaigns at the charity, said the NHS needed help from the government.

“These waiting time figures present a worrying picture for patients and demonstrates the urgent need for the government to make addressing this crisis a national priority” he said.

“If hospitals are expected to meet waiting time targets then they must be given the resources and capacity to enable them to meet these standards.

“The Government must get to grips with tackling this problem. It is crucial urgent progress is made as increasing demand for services is putting hospitals under unprecedented pressure because they simply do not have the capacity to meet this demand.

West Middlesex University Hospital, Isleworth(Image: TMS)

“Rather than rhetoric, what we need is a comprehensive action plan to finally deal with this long-standing crisis in diagnostic services for bowel cancer. Simply ignoring it won’t make it go away.”

Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust has been contacted for comment.

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