SERIOUS concerns have been raised over cancer treatment at Southend Hospital after it was revealed that a third of patients do not start treatment within the required two months.

National guidelines suggest that 85 per cent of cancer patients should receive initial treatment within 62 days of a GP’s referral.

But at Southend Hospital, a specialist cancer centre, just 67 per cent receive treatment in that period - making Southend the fourth worst nationally for meeting the guideline treatment period.

The Echo initially reported last April that one in three cancer patients face a delay in cancer treatment, with the figures released by the BBC yesterday showing little improvement has been made.

Ashley Dalton, Labour’s candidate for Rochford and Southend East, praised the cancer treatment that she previously received at the hospital - but insisted improvements are needed.

She said: “Southend Hospital has not met its target for cancer treatment waiting times since January 2015.

“The reason for this failure is clear: years of underfunding caused by Tory austerity in the NHS. This government failed to properly fund the NHS. directly and that has led to dropping standards.

“As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Tories have also undermined this vital service in other ways, through pay freezes, the abolition of the nursing bursary and a failure of workforce planning, leading a shortage of 100,000 staff.

“I know from my personal experience of cancer treatment at Southend Hospital that NHS staff are hardworking and highly skilled. But when services are underfunded and staff livelihoods are attacked, this Tory government ties the hands of doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals.”

Tom Abell, deputy chief executive of Southend, Basildon and Mid Essex Hospitals said: “We are working to reduce waiting times for cancer care and our clinical staff are making sure we are still providing the very best patient care whilst we do this.

“We have seen significant demand across our hospitals for cancer treatment – the number of patients referred by their GP with suspected cancer has risen an average of 16 per cent over the past year, with the number of patients starting treatment within 62 days up 19 per cent.”

“Our plans to bring clinical services together across mid and south Essex will mean we can improve cancer services further.”