Stephen Fry has today urged Brits to sign a petition calling on the Government to get a grip on Britain’s cancer crisis. 

Throwing his support behind the #CatchUpWithCancer campaign, he slammed the ‘deadly’ delays tens of thousands have faced and praised King Charles for raising awareness of the disease in general.

Fry, 66, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2018 but has since recovered. 

Damning figures show more than 200,000 cancer-stricken patients in the UK have endured delays to their treatment since 2020. 

Some have been forced to wait months to start chemo and other vital therapy.  

Throwing his support behind the #CatchUpWithCancer campaign, Stephen Fry slammed figures showing more than 200,000 patients have experienced treatment delays since 2020

Throwing his support behind the #CatchUpWithCancer campaign, Stephen Fry slammed figures showing more than 200,000 patients have experienced treatment delays since 2020

While the level of progress for cancer survival for some forms of the disease has been rapid, such as for breast and prostate cancers, others, like those for lung and pancreas have only improved at a snail's pace

While the level of progress for cancer survival for some forms of the disease has been rapid, such as for breast and prostate cancers, others, like those for lung and pancreas have only improved at a snail’s pace

The petition, which has gathered almost half a million signatures, was launched in 2020 by the parents of Kelly Smith, Craig and Mandy Russell, along with leading oncologist Professor Pat Price, founder of the charity Radiotherapy UK.

Ms Smith’s life expectancy was drastically cut short after her bowel cancer chemo stopped as a direct result of Covid. 

Doctors have long raised concerns that cancer targets across the NHS are still being missed, even when somebody has been diagnosed with the disease.

Latest NHS data shows fewer than two thirds (65.9 per cent) of patients started their first cancer treatment within two months of an urgent referral. 

NHS guidelines state 85 per cent of cancer patients should be treated within this timeframe. 

But this target has never been met.

In a video shared on social media by Radiotherapy UK, Fry said: ‘In 2018 I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. 

‘You never know how you’re going to react when you get that kind of news and very sadly it’s something one in two of us are going to go through.’

He added: ‘Since 2020, 225,000 people have waited too long for cancer treatment, and these waits can be deadly. 

‘If, like me, you want to help, here’s what you can do. Join me and sign the #CatchUpWithCancer campaign petition.’

 

Radiotherapy UK’s charity director, Sarah Quinlan MBE, said: ‘Stephen and his team have been wonderfully supportive of what we are trying to do, which is spotlight the many thousands of people waiting too long for cancer treatment, often with deadly consequences. 

‘To have such a national treasure speak up for the campaign, and help us get the petition to a major milestone, is a massive boost. 

‘We hope even more of the public will get behind the campaign, and that government will sit up and pay attention to treating patients with cancer, not just diagnosing them.’ 

It comes as King Charles last month began treatment for cancer within days of being diagnosed. 

Buckingham Palace has not specified the type of cancer. 

But his treatment has drawn further attention to the long waiting times in the NHS. 

‘I think he’s done a real service to the country in being open and honest about it,’ Fry added.

Fry has been close friends with the King for a number of years and the actor was personally invited to his coronation last year.

It comes as King Charles (pictured on February 4) last month began treatment for cancer within days of being diagnosed. Buckingham Palace has not specified the type of cancer and whether the King is receiving private healthcare or being treated on the NHS. But his treatment has drawn further attention to the long waiting times in the NHS

It comes as King Charles (pictured on February 4) last month began treatment for cancer within days of being diagnosed. Buckingham Palace has not specified the type of cancer and whether the King is receiving private healthcare or being treated on the NHS. But his treatment has drawn further attention to the long waiting times in the NHS 

Last month, patients, charity activists and oncologists ¿ led by #CatchUpWithCancer ¿ marched on Parliament calling on ministers to commit to having a dedicated cancer plan. Pictured, (left to right) Antiques Roadshow expert Theo Burrell, TV gardener Danny Clarke, Dan Knowles, CEO of Brain Tumour Research, Sam Suriakumar, a patient in treatment for a brain tumour, and mother of campaigner Laura Nuttall, Nicola Nuttall, pose with their box of signatures before handing in a petition to 10 Downing Street, London

Last month, patients, charity activists and oncologists — led by #CatchUpWithCancer — marched on Parliament calling on ministers to commit to having a dedicated cancer plan. Pictured, (left to right) Antiques Roadshow expert Theo Burrell, TV gardener Danny Clarke, Dan Knowles, CEO of Brain Tumour Research, Sam Suriakumar, a patient in treatment for a brain tumour, and mother of campaigner Laura Nuttall, Nicola Nuttall, pose with their box of signatures before handing in a petition to 10 Downing Street, London

Experts believe delays in diagnosis and slow access to treatment are behind the UK’s lethal gap in cancer survival rates.  

The NHS Long Term Plan, published in 2019, sets out that 75 per cent of people with cancer should be diagnosed early, at either stage one or two, by 2028.

But cancer care effectively ground to a halt for some patients when the pandemic first reached the UK’s shores, with appointments cancelled and diagnostic scans delayed because of the Government’s devotion to protecting the NHS.

Experts have estimated 40,000 cancers went undiagnosed during the first year of pandemic alone.

Other official NHS data for December on cancer waiting times also shows just seven in 10 (74.2 per cent) of patients urgently referred for suspected cancer were diagnosed or had cancer ruled out within 28 days. The target is 75 per cent. 

Just nine in ten (91.1 per cent) waiting a month or less for their first cancer treatment to begin after a decision to proceed with surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy. 

The target is 96 per cent but this has never been met.

Last month, patients, charity activists and oncologists — led by #CatchUpWithCancer — marched on Parliament calling on ministers to commit to having a dedicated cancer plan. 

The number of cancer patients waiting more than 60 days to start treatment would stretch from London to Cardiff if they stood in a row, they said. 

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