UK Government accused of failing to address cancer staff shortages

pharmafile | April 6, 2022 | News story | Research and Development  

MPs have warned that urgent steps are needed to prevent the UK from losing gains made in recent years on cancer survival rates, and to halt a predicted rise in unnecessary cancer deaths because of delayed diagnosis and treatment. 

The parliamentary committee highlighted that the NHS is not on track to meet the NHS Long Term Plan target, aiming to diagnose 75% of cancers at stage 1 or 2 by 2028. A 52-page report on cancer services published by the Health and Social Care Committee warns that gains made in cancer survival rates may reverse unless action is taken by government, with chronic cancer workforce shortages meaning the UK is now performing behind other comparable countries for cancer outcomes.

The NHS is currently estimated to be short of 3,371 specialist cancer nurses by 2030.

The Health and Social Care Committee published its report on cancer services on 5 April, in which it criticised the government for its lack of “serious effort” on improving cancer workforce shortages, which have been identified as a leading cause of late diagnosis.

“Hard working NHS staff were at breaking point even before the pandemic, with cancer nurses continuing to work under immense strain in a system that has never recovered,” commented Minesh Patel, Head of Policy at Macmillan Cancer Support. “This is causing huge anxiety for people living with cancer, who aren’t getting the tailored and quality care they need, and face long waits for their treatment, potentially worsening their prognosis.

“After years of failing to deliver the long-term funding and planning that NHS cancer services need, it’s vital that the Government’s upcoming 10-year Cancer Plan includes concrete proposals and investment to urgently increase the number of staff, so that people living with cancer receive the care they desperately need, now and in the years to come.” 

MPs added that without serious action, 340,000 patients between the years of 2019 and 2028, will have been denied an early diagnosis. For many cancer patients, this is the difference between life and death. MPs warn there appears to be “no detailed plan” from government to address shortages in the diagnostic workforce.

Ana Ovey

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