Cancer Research UK welcomes the long term NHS plan, which reiterates the Prime Minister’s ambition to improve cancer survival for patients. More people are being diagnosed with and treated for cancer than ever before, and survival is improving. The intention to improve early diagnosis is vital if patients are to have even greater chances of surviving cancer. The plan also pledges support to help people quit smoking which is the leading cause of cancer and preventable illness, so tackling that is a top priority for health.
Emma Greenwood, Cancer Research UK’s director of policy and public affairs said: “We’re pleased that commitments to transform cancer survival features strongly in this plan. The scale of the challenge is huge and this plan is a good starting point. Despite the real progress made over the last 20 years, the UK’s cancer survival still lags behind the best performing countries in the world and by 2035 one person every minute will be diagnosed with cancer. What we need now is a detailed plan to address the staffing shortages. Ultimately, without enough properly trained specialist staff to diagnose and treat those with cancer, progress will stall.”
To make real progress the government must employ and invest in more NHS staff who are so desperately needed to diagnose and treat cancer patients as demand on resources continues to grow. There needs to be a detailed plan to address staff shortages in areas such as radiology, pathology, endoscopy and oncology – backed up by extra investment through training and education budgets. Only then can the health service get close to achieving the Prime Minister’s ambition of 3 in 4 people diagnosed at an early stage of cancer by 2028.
The Government must now publish a long overdue cancer workforce plan to underpin the initiatives set out in the NHS England long term plan. To realise the ambitions on smoking the Government needs to provide more funding for public health to match local authority support for cancer prevention.