A KEY cancer waiting time target has been missed by University Hospitals Dorset Trust 10 months in a row, figures show.

Analysis of national data by Cancer Research UK revealed the target – aimed at making sure the majority of patients sent for urgent cancer investigations are seen within two months – has been missed across England for more than half a decade.

The charity is calling for major investment in services it says were struggling even before the coronavirus pandemic.

The NHS states 85 per cent of cancer patients urgently referred by a GP should start treatment within 62 days.

NHS England data shows that University Hospitals Dorset NHS Foundation Trust fell behind the target in every month between October 2020 and July this year.

In July, just 79 per cent of patients received cancer treatment within two months of an urgent referral. That was down from 80 per cent in June.

Mark Mould, UHD chief operating officer: “We are committed to ensuring all of our patients receive timely care and are proud that at University Hospitals Dorset cancer care continued throughout the pandemic, however COVID-19 continues to impact how we work.

“The pandemic meant fewer people sought appointments in 2020 but we are now seeing increasing numbers which, together with national guidelines on social distancing and infection control, is putting increasing demands on our cancer services.

“During this period we have supported our patients in a range of ways, including developing educational videos to assist them whilst starting/undergoing treatment as well as providing access to a support worker to help them during their treatment.

“We remain committed to doing all that we can to improve patient wait times and, although we recognise we have a way to go, our staff continue to work incredibly hard to be there for everyone who needs us.”

Across England, just 72 per cent of patients received cancer treatment within two months of an urgent referral in July.

The NHS target was last met nationally in December in 2015, while annual performance has worsened year-on-year since 2017.

Cancer Research UK said pressures caused by the pandemic, including a growing list of patients, were a factor, but also laid blame on workforce shortages and insufficient infrastructure.

The Department of Health and Social Care said it was providing record investment for the NHS, including an additional £9 billion for elective and cancer care.

A spokesperson said cancer diagnosis and treatment had remained "a top priority" throughout the pandemic.