COLCHESTER Hospital is still missing the target for cancer treatment waiting times - and it is getting worse.

The Department of Health says at least 85 per cent of people should receive treatment for cancer within 62 days of being referred by their GP.

However, figures released by the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust showed only 77.4 per cent of patients received the treatment within the time scale in April.

That dropped to 74.2 per cent in May and then to 70 per cent in June.

Jan Ingle, deputy director of communications, apologised on behalf of the trust.

She said: “We are not achieving these national access standards for cancer across our trust and we sincerely apologise for this.

“There are several factors to explain why, such as more patients being referred for treatment and care, increasing demand on diagnostic tests and availability of specialist staff.

“We are absolutely determined to address these issues and make sure we are achieving every single standard for cancer care as soon as possible.”

During the board meeting it was heard there has been “significant growth in the number of referrals” and the trust - which runs Colchester, Clacton and Harwich hospitals - was beginning to see the impact of pension issues relating to consultant staff.

Health leaders warned NHS waiting lists are getting drastically longer as senior doctors are no longer taking on extra work over changes to pension tax.

NHS Providers said the situation was having a massive impact on patient care.

NHS pensions changes in 2016 have impacted upon those earning more than £110,000 a year due to the introduction of a tapered annual allowance.

This is a tax threshold which restricts the amount of pension growth individuals are allowed each year before tax charges apply.

Health leaders say the rules mean the NHS’s most senior and experienced staff are being pushed to leave, work part-time or refuse extra shifts.

But data found the trust was over-performing in waiting times from cancer screening service referral to patients’ first treatment.