People are putting their lives at risk by turning down cancer appointments because they clash with their holiday plans, a hospital has claimed.
Royal Stoke University Hospital said an increasing number of patients have missed bookings for potentially life-saving treatment.
Clinicians are urging people who are referred not to delay being seen.
In January, 18 of the 53 patients who missed the treatment deadline did so of their own choice.
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The hospital, which is run by the University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust, said this equates to 40% of patients breaching the 62-day target of starting treatment after an urgent GP referral of their own volition.
Dr John Oxtoby, medical director of the trust, said the hospital is becoming “increasingly concerned” with people choosing not to take appointments “because these clash with holiday plans or other social arrangements”.
He added: “We know that in many cases having early diagnosis, surgery and therapy for cancer can make a significant difference to both patient outcomes and experience, and in some cases this really is a matter of life or death.
“We don’t want to alarm patients unnecessarily, but having an urgent two-week referral means that an individual may have cancer.
“It may take a number of weeks for a definitive diagnosis to be made, and then a number more for the appropriate treatment to be scheduled, so ideally patients need to keep this time free for appointments for tests and ultimately surgery if this proves necessary.
“We need to have honest conversations about this and tell people that once they have such a referral they need to be prepared to prioritise their health over everything else going on in their lives.”