Improving cancer diagnosis

Improving cancer diagnosis should be a key priority for the government. Key to this will be increasing the number of diagnosticians, improving public awareness and screening programmes, and ensuring that GPs have the training, resources and support they need to identify symptoms and refer patients quickly.

The government published its cancer workforce plan in December, with 23 Cancer Alliances across England leading its implementation to transform diagnosis and treatment in local areas. Health Education England will work with Cancer Alliances to develop workforce plans that recognise significant regional variations. These are due to be submitted by March 2018.

The Cancer Strategy also contains a number of recommendations that could go a long way towards helping the estimated 2.5 million people living with cancer and, if implemented in full, could save 30,000 more lives per year by 2020. Ministers have now accepted the strategy’s recommendations and implementation is being led by NHS England’s National Cancer Strategy.

However, the government has repeatedly missed the national cancer target since January 2014. In the past year, waiting lists have topped 4 million, the number of patients spending more than four hours in A&E has risen 250 per cent and the Royal College of Nursing has warned of a 40,000 shortfall of nursing staff.

NHS England has already warned that treatment targets cannot be met and other benchmarks and standards may be at risk because the Chancellor did not provide the NHS with the money experts said it required at the Autumn Budget.

I recently raised my concerns about this to the Prime Minister, click here.

If the NHS is to deliver for patients and fulfil the Cancer Strategy by 2021, it is essential that Ministers fully support the cancer workforce plan with the funding needed to make its ambitions a reality and to ensure cancer diagnosis, care and outcomes are improved.