The NHS has missed its 62-day wait target for the third year running, according to latest figures. 

The guideline dictates that 85% of patients given an urgent GP referral for suspected cancer should begin their treatment within a 62-day window.

According to the NHS’ latest figures, only 82.2% of patients were treated within that time period in the last three months of 2016, continuing its failure to reach its guideline target since 2014.

Since 2014, more than 70,000 people have waited longer than the 62-day wait target to start their treatment for cancer.

Cancer Research UK’s director of policy and public affairs, Emma Greenwood, described the failure as “unacceptable” and highlighting the growing pressure the NHS is facing: “We know that there are major staff shortages for tests like imaging and endoscopy, which must be tackled in order to see progress,” she said. “Cancer targets exist to ensure quick diagnosis and access to treatment, which is vital if we’re to give patients the best chance of a cure and are serious about having survival rates to match the best in the world.”

The government had committed an extra £300 million in funding to ensure earlier cancer diagnosis by 2020 in order to cope with rising numbers of those diagnosed with the disease. However, the process from investigatory testing to final diagnosis remains difficult and drawn out.

The news comes at a time when recently leaked findings suggest the NHS is also missing its A&E waiting times, with only 82% of those in A&E being transferred, admitted or discharged in under four hours – well below the 95% target and the lowest recorded in the past 13 years.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt recently addressed the findings, described the numbers as “completely unacceptable.”