Improvements To NHS Cancer Services Needed, Charity Says

Cancer Research UK Is Calling For Greater Funding For NHS Cancer Services


Cancer services provided by the NHS may be reaching breaking point, despite medical staff doing their best to keep treatment at the highest possible standard.

This is according to a new report commissioned by the charity Cancer Research UK, which revealed both staff and services are under increasing pressure to deliver a high-quality service, while facing significant obstacles.

For instance, cost savings and NHS reforms have led to the potential for standards of care to suffer.

The report highlighted how there has been a loss of leadership for such services after the National Cancer Action Team was removed, while there has also been a rising demand for cancer treatment, but a lack of capacity to respond to this in the most effective manner.

One expert who responded to the report stated: "We need more funding. Instead of progressing/developing our cancer services, which are already significantly underfunded, our services are actually being cut. It is becoming impossible to deliver all the new cancer targets and quality of care is deteriorating."

Despite this, chief executive of Cancer Research UK Harpal Kumar commented: "In many ways, NHS cancer services have held up remarkably well. They have coped."

However, he added that this "cannot continue indefinitely".

Therefore, the charity is calling for significant improvements to be made to NHS cancer care within the UK, particularly with regard to diagnostic services.

It also wants a review carried out into the leadership of cancer services, as it believes this will help the NHS to manage its treatment of the disease more effectively, while it states the commissioning of cancer services could assist in better management of treating the ageing population and the anticipated increase in cases of the condition.

Between 2013 and 2014, more than 1.4 million people in England were referred by their GP to cancer services, as it was suspected they had the disease, indicating a 50 per cent increase from the 2009-10 period.

Patients are meant to be seen within 62 days by an oncology expert, but this standard has recently dropped below its target of 85 per cent for the first time in four years.

Expert Opinion
The critical role early diagnosis and treatment of cancer plays in the likelihood of survival and recovery of patient suffering with the disease makes the findings of this report extremely worrying. It is vital the quality of care offered to cancer patients is of the highest possible standard and it is worrying to hear these services are nearing breaking point.

“It is vital that patient care remains a top priority for the NHS no matter what changes the organisation as a whole is undergoing. It is also crucial that those diagnosed with cancer are able to access the care they need quickly and that it meets the required standard across the board. We have seen first-hand the damage that can be caused when patients are unable to access treatment quickly or when the care provided to them is not of the correct standard.

“We hope that the findings of this report act as a warning to the NHS and that measures are taken to improve services, staffing numbers and leadership within this area of care.”
Lisa Jordan, Partner