Patients choosing not to attend their appointments is contributing to Blackpool Victoria Hospital (BVH) failing to meet targets for the treatment of cancer patients.
Cancer patients should be treated at hospital within 62 days of being diagnosed.
Janet Barnsley, interim director of planned care at BVH, said in some instances it was the complexity of the cases which led to delays, but in others it was due to “patients choosing not to come in.”
She told a public board meeting of the Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust: “We offer a date within the waiting time and they choose not to take it.”
Trust chairman Pearse Butler said: “All the evidence is that quick diagnosis and treatment is the key, and then we have members of the public who say ‘wait a bit longer.’”
Although work was being done in community health to encourage people to take up their appointments, it was suggested deprivation could play a part in people opting out.
Non-executive director Alan Roff said: “There is perhaps a higher percentage of people choosing to do that here than in a more affluent area.”
But research has also shown some people do not take up appointments because they are scared of the outcome, or unaware of the urgency of being treated.
A spokesman for NHS Blackpool Clinical Commissioning Group said: “We are carrying out research into the reasons for people not attending their cancer appointments but we suspect there could be two main reasons.
“Firstly people may be afraid of a potential cancer diagnosis and are reluctant to attend their appointment.
“Another reason is they are not aware of the urgency of the appointment and think it is just a check-up and therefore ignore it.
“We have asked GPs to emphasise to patients that the sooner they attend their initial appointment to the cancer clinics the more likely they are to have a good outcome.
“If people are afraid they can seek support by contacting the clinic or by bringing a friend with them.
“Nine out of ten people referred from their GP are not diagnosed with cancer so there is not normally anything to worry about.
“However if there is something that needs treating it is better if it is found and treated quickly.
“If people are not able to attend their appointment they should contact the hospital to rearrange as soon as they can and not just ignore it.”