The one-year survival rate for bowel cancer patients in west Hampshire has improved, figures show.

But at the start of Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, Bowel Cancer UK warned that survival levels across England could drop to those of a decade ago as a result of disruption during the pandemic, which has had "devastating consequences" for some patients.

Public Health England figures show adults aged between 15 and 99 in the NHS West Hampshire CCG area had an 81.9% chance of surviving for one year following a bowel cancer diagnosis in 2018 – the most recent year available.

This was up slightly from 81.6% the year before, and an improvement on 79% in 2003, when such records began.

West Hampshire patients have survival rates higher than the 80.7% average across England.

Though the highest figure on record, this national measure varies widely across the country, from as low as 70% in Leicester City to as high as 88% in the London borough of Harrow.

This gap of 18% percentage points marks the eighth consecutive increase and is the largest since 2003, which Bowel Cancer UK said is "incredibly concerning".

Chief executive Genevieve Edwards said the disease is treatable and curable if diagnosed early, but almost half a million people in England are still waiting for a test to confirm if they have it.

She said: "Delays like this can lead to poorer outcomes for bowel cancer patients and potentially cost lives.

"The Government must increase endoscopy capacity in the NHS by providing urgent multi-year investment to grow its workforce, provide new equipment and improve pathways to bring waiting times under control, which will ultimately save more lives.”

The PHE figures also show that the five-year survival rate for bowel cancer patients falls to 64.1% across Wessex, and 58.9% over ten years.

A recent report by the Institute for Public Policy Research warned disruption to health care amid the pandemic could see bowel cancer survival rates return to those last seen in 2010.

Ms Edwards added: "We know that NHS staff continue to work incredibly hard to keep cancer services going, but the severe disruption over the last 12 months has led to many people having their treatment delayed or cancelled, sometimes with devastating consequences."

Around six in 10 new cases of the disease are diagnosed in people aged 70 or over, according to the charity, but bowel cancer can affect anyone of any age.

Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, in April, is an annual campaign to increase the public's understanding of the UK’s second biggest cancer killer.