A new report from Cancer Research UK claims that thousands of patients across the country are missing out on targeted cancer drugs because of failings in NHS diagnostic services.

Around 16,000 eligible patients in England alone did not receive a diagnostic test to determine the genetic make-up of their tumour last year, around a quarter of which may have benefitted from treatment with a targeted therapy.

This means that an estimated 3,500 lung and bowel cancer patients missed out on medicines that could have changed the course of their disease, the charity says.

Molecular diagnostic tests have been available since 2008, but lack of dedicated funding and doctor awareness are effectively barring patients from access to them.

The government promised back in 2011 to develop a national commissioning structure for the tests, but this has still not happened, CR UK notes. Now, a further £13 million is needed to meet the demand for tests and make sure the services keep up to date, as new treatments become available and new biomarkers are found, according to the report.

“Despite much talk about innovation in care, the NHS is once again lagging behind, and patients aren’t getting tested to see if they might benefit from new types of treatment,” said Peter Johnson, Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician.

“Molecular diagnostic tests can help doctors to choose more tailored treatments that may improve survival for their patients, allow patients to take part in clinical trials and potentially reduce side effects from less effective treatments: they are not an optional extra.”