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Waiting rule hits cancer sufferers

A rising number of women with suspected breast cancer are waiting too long to see an expert because of government targets.

At present, urgent cases are put on a maximum “two-week waiting rule” from seeing a GP to a consultant.

Now experts are calling for an urgent review of the system after a study found that a growing number of breast cancer cases among women classed as “non-urgent” and forced to wait a fortnight. There were 24,999 referrals during the research between 1999 and 2005 at the Frenchay Breast care Centre in Bristol.

Alarmingly, while the number of breast of non-urgent referrals fell, the percentage of cancer cases in the non-urgent group more than doubled to 5.3% in 2005, according to the British Medical Journal.

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb said: “This is shocking proof of a system that is well intentioned but appears to be failing the patients.”