A report on the diagnosis and treatment of mesothelioma patients has been published for the first time by the Health and Social Care Information Centre.

The report is one of the largest studies of mesothelioma with data collected on more than 8,700 patients from across England and Wales.

Mesothelioma is a fatal cancer caused by exposure to asbestos which takes decades to develop. Those who worked in construction, manufacturing, shipbuilding and engineering during the 1950s, 60s and 70s, when the use of asbestos was prevalent, are most at risk.

The report reveals significant geographical variations in mesothelioma patient diagnosis and care across the UK. The average length of time between referral and diagnosis ranged from 15 to 44 days, and the proportion of patients receiving chemotherapy varied from 19.9% to 61.3%.

Last week, the Health and Safety Executive predicted that the number of people expected to die as a result of the disease will continue to rise. The number of mesothelioma deaths increased from 2,291 in 2011 to 2,536 in 2012. An estimated 90,000 people in the UK will die from the disease between 1970 and 2050.

Ian McFall, head of the national asbestos litigation team at Thompsons Solicitors, said: “Mesothelioma is an aggressive and devastating disease and a damning indictment of corporate negligence in the UK.

“The fact, as this report shows, that mesothelioma patients are not all receiving the best standard of care is a real cause for concern. Medical professionals, particularly lung cancer nurses, in hospitals and cancer networks specialising in mesothelioma have led the way in dramatically improving standards of treatment, care and support for patients and their families over recent years. But there are areas where there is still more to do to achieve consistent best practice across the country.

“It is imperative that the increasing number of patients suffering from mesothelioma receive the highest possible standards of care available.”