DELAYS to patients starting cancer treatment at Airedale Hospital are putting lives at risk, it's claimed.

Figures for November last year show that just 66 per cent of people began treatment within two months, or 62 days, of an urgent referral from a GP. The national target is 85 per cent.

And Keighley's Labour parliamentary candidate, John Grogan, who obtained the data, says the "crucial" target has been missed most months in recent years.

He says: "Delays like this can be a matter of life and death for cancer patients.

"It's unacceptable that one in three referred to Airedale Hospital are waiting over two months to start their treatment. The hospital last met the crucial national cancer target in October, 2022, and has failed to do so in the great majority of months in recent years. In 2022, the longest wait for cancer treatment at Airedale was 266 days.

"The problem, which unfortunately is common across much of the NHS, appears to lie in the resources available for testing and diagnosis.

"Airedale Hospital has a good record in getting treatment started once a plan has been agreed, with very hard working medical and auxiliary staff, but delays in arriving at that stage are putting lives at risk.

"We are all looking forward to the building of a new Airedale Hospital, but we have a lot to do to ensure that it will offer prompt first-class cancer care to all who need it."

Airedale NHS Foundation Trust says "a combination of factors" has impacted on its 62-day cancer performance target.

A spokesperson adds: "We are sorry for the delays that some of our patients have experienced.

"Nationally, urgent cancer referrals increased substantially after the pandemic and we have been working through the testing and diagnostic phase as quickly as we can, although this can be very complex in many cases.

"Our teams are focusing on improving this situation to ensure the best possible outcome for our patients.

"As John mentions, we have a great team which works hard to ensure treatment is started promptly. And we have excellent facilities for treatment, including our two state-of-the-art mobile cancer care units and our newly-refurbished haematology and oncology day unit."

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care says: "Cancer is being diagnosed at an earlier stage, more often. Survival rates are improving across almost all types of the disease and the NHS has been seeing and treating record numbers of cancer patients over the last two years.

"A major conditions strategy will set out how we'll improve cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment – and we have opened 141 community diagnostic centres offering over six million additional tests, including for cancer."