Bowel cancer patients in Wales wait longer for treatment than anywhere else in UK study finds

Patients in Wales who have bowel cancer face a longer wait for treatment compared to England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

A new international study found people in Wales waited on average 168 days between first noticing a change in their health and receiving treatment. It was the longest waiting time recorded in the study.

In England patients faced an average 145 day wait. Scotland was typically 120 days, and those in Northern Ireland waited 138 days.


Average number of days patients in Wales waited for bowel cancer treatment.

The report published by Cancer Research UK found that 10% of patients can be left waiting more than a year before receiving treatment. Researchers said longer waits for treatment can increase patient anxiety and even impact on the success of treatment.

The study compared the medical records of 2866 patients.

In response to the findings, the Welsh Government said it is "taking action" to improve initial detection of the cancer. Last week Health Secretary Vaughan Gething announced additional funding to go into cancer pathways next year.

We are taking action to improve the detection of bowel cancer as set out in the Cancer Delivery Plan for Wales. This includes a focus on screening and earlier detection, as well as rapid access to treatment and high quality care. Last week the Health Secretary announced a further £3m investment next year in cancer pathways and further investments will be made in diagnostic investigations such as colonoscopy.

Welsh Government spokesperson

Wales also recorded the longest wait to receive a diagnosis for bowel cancer, 60 days on average compared with 48 days in England. While patients in Wales took the longest to contact their doctor one they'd noticed a health concern or symptom.

It's worrying to see that patients in Wales took the longest to get a diagnosis for bowel cancer and this needs to be addressed urgently if more cancers are to be diagnosed earlier. While there is some good work happening to diagnose cancers earlier in Wales, to achieve better results will require more staff. In particular, diagnosing bowel cancer relies on trained endoscopists and pathologists and there have long been shortages of these vital health professionals. Ensuring cancer services are adequately staffed and have the equipment so patients receive the tests they need in good time must be a priority.

Andy Glyde, Cancer Research UK

The study tracked 2866 patients diagnosed with the cancer between 2013 and 2015. The full findings will be published in the British Medical Journal.