Cancer Research UK has said that a lack of government action on NHS staffing undermines its ambition to diagnose cancer early
According to Cancer Research UK, in just one year, around 115,000 cancer patients in England are diagnosed too late to give them the best chance of survival, new calculations show.
The government pledged, in 2018, to improve the number of people diagnosed with early stage cancer – Cancer Research UK has calculated that an extra 100,000 patients must be diagnosed early, every year, by 2028 to reach this target.
Cancer Research UK is asking the government to urgently invest in the cancer workforce in order to save more lives now and in the future.
Emma Greenwood, Cancer Research UK’s director of policy, said: “It’s unacceptable that so many people are diagnosed late. Although survival has improved, it’s not happening fast enough.
“More referrals to hospital means we urgently need more staff. The government’s inaction on staff shortages is crippling the NHS, failing cancer patients and the doctors and nurses who are working tirelessly to diagnose and treat them.
“By 2035, one person every minute will be diagnosed with cancer but there’s no plan to increase the number of NHS staff to cope with demand now or the growing numbers in the future.
“Saving lives from cancer needs to be top of the agenda for the new government and it must commit to investing in vital NHS staff now to ensure no one dies from cancer unnecessarily.”
By 2035, more than 500,000 people will be diagnosed with cancer in the UK, compared with nearly 360,000 today. With an ageing population, more tests will need to be carried out to diagnose more cancers and diagnose them earlier.
The deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery, added:
“We know that the demand for NHS cancer services will continue to rise, so we need to have the specialist workforce, equipment and treatments in place to meet this challenge.
“Delays for patients starting treatment can have a real and serious impact on the treatment options available to them and how effective it is.
“Trusts are working hard to meet the growing number of patients referred under the two-week target. But an increase in demand for diagnostic tests, combined with workforce shortages and an inability to invest in new scanners and machines are all contributing to delays for patients.
“Workforce shortages are severe. It leaves trusts struggling to ensure they have the range of specialists needed to carry out tests and report the outcomes within the expected time-frame. The shortages of endoscopists and radiologists are particularly serious.
“The NHS is committed to improving cancer care and outcomes as part of its long term plan. But to do this, we must see investment in education and training to make sure we are safeguarding these skills within the service. We also need to see more capital investment in the equipment needed to both diagnose and treat cancer.”