Cancer Research UK said the overall drop in patients diagnosed with cancer through emergency routes is positive, but added too many people affected by cancer are still waiting too long to receive a diagnosis and begin vital treatment.
An emergency presentation of cancer is when a diagnosis is given within 30 days of a hospital admission and does not include more managed routes, such as cancer screening or through a GP.
NHS data shows 739 cancer patients were first seen as inpatients in the former NHS Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin CCG from July to September last year. Of them, 118 – or 16 per cent – were emergency presentations.
This was down from 20.4 per cent during the same period in 2021 and a fall from 19.4 per cent before the Covid-19 pandemic in 2019.
Nick white, Chief Medical Officer for NHS Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin, said they were encouraged by the figures, but stressed there is more work to do, highlighting extra capacity and the upcoming Community Diagnostic Centre as ways to improve diagnoses.
He said: “We have been working hard as a health and care system to encourage people to seek help early and recover our cancer screening following the impact of the pandemic.
“The reduction in the number of patients diagnosed with cancer through emergency routes is positive and encouraging. However, we know we have more to do, and we will continue to prioritise cancer diagnosis and treatment.
“We have secured additional capacity across a range of particularly challenged cancer specialties, including diagnostics, and later this year we will be opening our new Community Diagnostic Centre which will further improve access to diagnostic testing for people across Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin. ”
Dr Ian Walker, Cancer Research UK's executive director of policy and information, said the overall drop in the proportion of people diagnosed through emergency routes positive as those patients tend to have worse outcomes.
He added: "Despite the tireless work of NHS staff, too many people affected by cancer are waiting too long to receive a diagnosis and begin vital treatment regardless of the route they enter the system.
"We urge the Government to show political leadership on cancer and use its upcoming Major Conditions Strategy to transform cancer services, so every patient has the best chances of early diagnosis and survival."
Across England, 13,200 of the 71,600 presentations were emergencies.
It means the rate of emergency presentations was 18.4 per cent in the third quarter of 2022, down from 19.7 per cent the same period in 2021 and down from 19.3 per cent pre-Covid in 2019.
The figures also show the cancers with the highest rate of emergency presentations were pancreatic cancer – 55.6 per cent, acute myeloid leukaemia – 54.9 per cent, and malignant central nervous system tumours – 51.5 per cent.
An NHS spokesperson said: "It is encouraging news that emergency presentations of cancer are back below pre-pandemic levels, continuing the steady decline that we have seen over almost two decades.
"While the incidence rate has risen over time due to an ageing population, the hard work of NHS staff means the health service is now diagnosing a higher proportion of cancers at an early stage – when they’re usually easier to treat – than ever before, potentially saving thousands of lives."