Half of NHS hospital trusts missed a crucial two-week cancer diagnosis target every month last year, new figures reveal.
The health service says 93 per cent of patients should have an appointment with a specialist within a fortnight of an urgent GP referral.
But analysis of official data by the House of Commons library shows this was missed by 63 out of 132 trusts in England (48 per cent) every month in 2022.
Only five NHS trusts, making up less than 4 per cent of the total, met the target in every month of last year.
MailOnline app users can use the tool by clicking here
Experts warn delays can slash survival and recovery chances as the earlier the disease is diagnosed the easier it is to treat.
At the worst performing trusts in December 2022, fewer than half of patients were seen on time, the study commissioned by the Liberal Democrats reveals.
The worst was University Hospital Bristol and Weston where just 42 per cent of patients were seen within two weeks.
This was followed by Whittington Health (45 per cent), Liverpool University Hospitals (48 per cent), and North West Anglia (49 per cent).
Daisy Cooper, the Liberal Democrat health spokesperson, said: ‘It is a national scandal that crucial targets are being routinely missed, leaving many people waiting anxiously for a cancer diagnosis.
‘It shows there are shocking gaps in cancer care depending on where you live in the country.
‘The evidence tells us how critical a speedy diagnosis can be.
‘The Government must get a grip on this crisis so cancer patients get the urgent care they need to give them the best chance of survival.
‘That must start with a proper plan to recruit the NHS staff the health service so desperately needs.’
The analysis rounded some figures and excluded months for some trusts where they had not provided complete data.
NHS cancer data for December shows that just six in 10 patients started treatment within two months from an urgent GP cancer referral (red line), leaving 5381 (blue line) waiting more than 62 days for cancer care
The findings come a month after the Government scrapped its long-term plan dedicated to cancer, prompting Macmillan to accuse ministers of ‘leaving lives hanging in the balance’.
Separate figures show 2022 had the worst waiting times ever for cancer, with more than 50,000 people a month waiting more than two weeks to see a specialist following an urgent GP referral – more than ten times as many as a decade ago.
While record numbers started treatment, those missing out on timely care is increasing at a far faster rate, cancer charities have warned.
Delays to treatment saw some 25,000 people in England with a confirmed diagnosis facing waits of more than a month last year, five times as many as in 2012.
Ian Walker, director of policy, information and communications at Cancer Research UK, said: ‘Cancer patients, their families and loved ones are waiting too long for diagnosis and treatment, and sadly it’s been this way for years.
‘With growing numbers of people in the UK expected to be diagnosed with cancer in the years ahead, the task ahead is huge.
‘That’s why Cancer Research UK has come together with over 60 cancer charities calling on the UK Government to commit to an ambitious, long-term and fully funded strategy for cancer in England.
‘In just a week, our petition has reached over 63,000 signatures.
‘The message from #OneCancerVoice is loud and clear: we need to see investment in world-class cancer research, diagnosis, treatment, and care for all.’
A Department for Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘The latest NHS data shows a higher percentage of people with suspected cancer were seen within the 2 week wait standard in December compared to November.
‘We are determined to reduce the time between cancer referral and consultation and have opened 92 community diagnostic centres that have delivered over 3million tests scans and checks, including to detect cancer as early as possible.’