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Press release

The King's Fund responds to the Liberal Democrats' pledge on cancer treatment

Commenting on a pledge from the Liberal Democrats that there will be a legal right for cancer patients to start treatment within 62 days, Sarah Woolnough, Chief Executive of The King’s Fund, said:

‘Bringing down cancer waiting times is an admirable ambition that is important to patients, many of whom are waiting too long to start cancer treatment. Early diagnosis and swift treatment are critical to improving cancer survival, and the UK has relatively poor outcomes compared with international counterparts. There is already a target for people to be offered treatment within 62 days of an urgent cancer referral. It is not clear how enshrining the target in law without additional money and resources will do anything to ensure the target is met.

‘Reducing the length of time patients wait will involve boosting capacity for early diagnosis, having enough staff, addressing difficulties in accessing GP appointments, and underpinning funding – all of these will be critical to improving cancer performance.

‘The 62-day cancer referral target has not been met since it was introduced two years ago and the latest monthly performance figures for this are at 69%.

‘Crucially, the reality is that the prevalence of cancer is increasing due to a combination of reasons, including an ageing population and lifestyle factors. While there should be a focus on improving health care performance, there also needs to be a greater focus by any future government on preventing illness as well as treating it; this includes bold, cross-government action to reduce risk factors such as smoking, drinking, poor diet and lack of exercise.’ 

Notes to editors

  1. The King’s Fund has published three general election priorities any future government should take to ‘fix’ health and care, including how to reduce the biggest risk factors affecting people’s health: General Election 2024 | The King's Fund (

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The King's Fund is an independent charity working to improve health and care in England. We help to shape policy and practice through research and analysis; develop individuals, teams and organisations; promote understanding of the health and social care system; and bring people together to learn, share knowledge and debate. Our vision is that the best possible health and care is available to all. 

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