A HEALTH trust breached a key cancer waiting time target 10 months in a row, figures show.

The NHS states 85 per cent of cancer patients urgently referred by a GP should start treatment within 62 days.

But NHS England data shows Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust missed the target every month between October 2020 – when the trust was created following the merger of Mid Essex, Basildon and Southend hospital trusts – and July this year.

In July, just 57 per cent of patients received cancer treatment within two months of an urgent referral.

That was down from 60 per cent in June.

East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Trust, which runs Colchester and Ipswich hospitals, fell behind the target every month between April 2019 – when comparable  figures began – and July this year.

In July, 79 per cent of patients received treatment within two months of an urgent referral, down from 81 per cent in June and 84 per cent in July last year.

Across England, 72 per cent of patients received cancer treatment within two months of an urgent referral in July.

The NHS target was last met nationally in December 2015 and annual performance has worsened year-on-year since 2017.

Cancer Research UK said pressures caused by the pandemic, including a growing list of patients, were a factor, but also laid blame on workforce shortages and insufficient infrastructure.

Prof Charles Swanton, the charity's chief clinician, said: "For people with cancer, every day counts – that is why we have cancer targets.

"I've been working in the NHS for a long time and it’s hard to watch the continuous deterioration, and the anxiety and worsening outcomes this can cause patients."

The charity said a radical reform of screening and diagnostic services was needed, backed up by long-term investment from the upcoming spending review by the Government at the end of October.

He added: "The Government has to commit to long term investment in workforce and kit so that we can turn things around and give patients both the care and outcomes they deserve.”

The Department of Health and Social Care said it was providing record investment for the NHS, including an additional £9 billion for elective and cancer care.

A spokesman said cancer diagnosis and treatment had remained "a top priority" throughout the pandemic.

"Almost half a million people were checked for cancer in June and July which is among the highest numbers ever," they added.