Some cancer patients wait well over a year for treatment after being referred by their GP, with one enduring a 541-day delay.
Another waited 446 days and a third was not treated for 361 days, even though NHS guidelines state cancer patients should wait no longer than 62 days.
But two thirds of hospitals that provided figures for the Freedom of Information request – 58 out of 88 trusts – said at least one patient had waited more than six months.
However, the hospitals concerned said that some of these patients had not intended to have treatment. Some were on care plans in which they were scanned, only being treated once tumours grew or spread.
Labour, which obtained the figures, accused the Government of ‘losing control’ of cancer treatment.
Jonathan Ashworth, the party’s health spokesman, said: ‘The number of people needing treatment has risen sharply and the Government has failed to increase availability of services at the rate required.
‘The brilliant efforts of NHS staff are being hampered by tight NHS budgets. Years of underfunding and abject failure to invest in the frontline doctors and nurses we need means Theresa May is letting down cancer patients.’
Growing numbers of patients are being diagnosed with cancer because the population is ageing – and the disease is more common in old age. In addition, medical advances mean that more patients are surviving cancer or living for years with tumours that would previously have been terminal. This all places an extra strain on the NHS’s cancer services.
Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital said a patient waited 541 days for treatment in 2017, although a spokesman said this was probably because they had not initially wanted treatment, but were forced to when their condition worsened.
Another patient at Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust waited 446 days to be treated for lung cancer last year. But the hospital said the patient was initially put on a ‘watch and wait’ programme and had regular scans until their tumours became more aggressive. Andrew Kaye, from Macmillan Cancer Support, said: ‘Despite the tireless work of doctors and nurses, it appears that some cancer patients are still enduring shockingly long waits.
‘Long delays can put people under incredible stress at an already difficult time, and could mean someone’s health could take a turn for the worse.’
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: ‘Nobody should wait longer than necessary for treatment and, despite a 115 per cent increase in referrals since 2010, the vast majority of people start treatment within 62 days .’