LESS than half of patients with urgent referrals for breast symptoms are seen within two weeks when cancer is not suspected.

Only 40 per cent of people referred for an urgent assessment were seen in the target two-week period over the year before July.

In July, 69 per cent of patients were still waiting to be seen two weeks after their urgent referral.

These patients were not suspected to have cancer but sent by their GP to be urgently assessed due to their symptoms.

If a GP believes that a patient is likely to have breast cancer, the patient must be urgently assessed within two weeks.

However, women under the age of 30 with a lump in their breast, an infection that fails to respond to antibiotics or other symptoms which are not suspected to be cancerous, are still referred for an urgent assessment with an "aim" of being seen within two weeks.

The results were described as an "area of focus for improvement" in a report presented to the clinical commissioning group last week.

It said: "The clinical lead for elective care is working with the clinical lead for breast services to support the development of a new breast pain pathway and education for GPs to support demand management and appropriate referrals."

While the waiting times fell below the 93 per cent two-week target, when cancer was not suspected more than 97 per cent of those suspected to have cancer were urgently assessed within two weeks in the year to July.