Cancer patients at Royal Bolton have had some respite from “stress and anxiety” with the hospital bucking national trends to meet new waiting time targets.

This comes against a backdrop of the NHS as a whole failing to meet a recently minted government target to diagnose 75 per cent of people on cancer referrals each month.

But despite the challenges faced nationally, the most recent findings in Bolton showed that 82 per cent of patients heard back about their cancer diagnoses last March.

Bolton NHS Foundation Trust chief operating officer Rae Wheatcroft said: “Waiting for treatment can be a very anxious time for patients and their families, particularly following a cancer diagnosis.

“Making sure that our patients are seen, diagnosed and treated as quickly as possible in these situations is one of our top priorities, and we’re pleased to have been able to consistently achieve this, even during the considerable challenges we’ve faced during the pandemic.”

In all, Bolton met its targets five months out of six between October last year, when they were introduced, and March.

But the worst performing month was January when just 72.4 per cent of 1,390 patients heard back.

Across England as a whole, the picture was much bleaker with tens of thousands of people across being "left in limbo" every month according to Cancer Research UK.

Cancer Research UK chief executive Michelle Mitchell said: “Cancer waiting targets have been missed for years, the pandemic has only made this worse.

"Where you live affects how long you will have to wait, this is bringing stress and anxiety for those waiting."

In response, the charity has called on the government to raise its target to 95 per cent and plan to ensure the NHS is able to deliver this.

But the Department of Health and Social Care claims a record investment has been made to deliver an extra nine million check, tests and scans across the country.

A spokesperson said: “We are improving outcomes for cancer patients across England and our new 10-Year Cancer Plan will set out how we will lead Europe in cancer care."