More cancer patients received an emergency diagnosis in Surrey Heartlands last year, new figures reveal – in contrast to a decline across England.
Cancer Research UK said the overall drop in patients diagnosed with cancer through emergency routes is positive, but added too many people affected by cancer are waiting too long to receive a diagnosis and begin vital treatment.
An emergency presentation of cancer is when a diagnosis is given within 30 days of a hospital admission and does not include more managed routes, such as cancer screening or through a GP.
NHS data shows 1,366 cancer patients were first seen as inpatients in the former NHS Surrey Heartlands CCG from July to September last year. Of them, 235 – or 17.2% – were emergency presentations.
This was up from 16.8% during the same period in 2021 and an increase from 16.3% before the Covid-19 pandemic in 2019.
Dr Ian Walker, Cancer Research UK's executive director of policy and information, said the overall drop in the proportion of people diagnosed through emergency routes positive as these patients tend to have worse outcomes.
Dr Walker added: "Despite the tireless work of NHS staff, too many people affected by cancer are waiting too long to receive a diagnosis and begin vital treatment regardless of the route they enter the system.
"We urge the Government to show political leadership on cancer and use its upcoming Major Conditions Strategy to transform cancer services, so every patient has the best chances of early diagnosis and survival."
Across England, 13,200 of the 71,600 presentations were emergencies. It means the rate of emergency presentations was 18.4% in the third quarter of 2022, down from 19.7% the same period in 2021 and down from 19.3% pre-Covid in 2019.
The figures also show the cancers with the highest rate of emergency presentations were pancreatic cancer (55.6%), acute myeloid leukaemia (54.9%) and malignant central nervous system tumours (51.5%).
An NHS spokesperson said: "It is encouraging news that emergency presentations of cancer are back below pre-pandemic levels, continuing the steady decline that we have seen over almost two decades.
"While the incidence rate has risen over time due to an ageing population, the hard work of NHS staff means the health service is now diagnosing a higher proportion of cancers at an early stage – when they’re usually easier to treat – than ever before, potentially saving thousands of lives."