Hospitals failed to treat thousands of cancer patients quickly enough last year according to the latest statistics, leading to renewed fears that NHS cancer care is deteriorating.

Figures show that the NHS failed to meet its target of starting treatment for a suspected cancer patient within 62 days of a receiving a GP referral for an entire year, with specific breaches of performance targets relating to lung, urological and lower gastrointestinal cancers.

During 2014, only 83.4 per cent of patients received treatment within the recommended 62 day period; 1.6 per cent less than the minimum target of 85 per cent.

This dropped to 73.3 per cent for lower gastrointestinal cancer patients, 75.6 per cent of lung cancer patients and 78 per cent for urological cancer patients.

Michael Burrell, a senior clinical negligence solicitor based in Thompsons Solicitors’ Birmingham office, said: “These latest figures are deeply concerning. When it comes to cancer, early diagnosis is key to offering patients the best chance of survival.

“Delays in diagnosis or treatment can have grave consequences for the patient. We have seen too many cases where delayed diagnosis and misdiagnosis have led to a deterioration in the patient’s condition or even death.

“These targets are not arbitrary or plucked out of the air. They are important to guide clinicians and to reassure patients. It’s absolutely essential that the NHS is properly resourced to meet the challenges that it faces to ensure that patients’ health isn’t compromised.”