A new report suggests cancer survival rates in England risk going into reverse as the health service faces staff shortages that are jeopardising earlier diagnosis.
MPs have raised the alarm on the prolonged impact of the pandemic on cancer services in England in a new report which underlines the importance of getting to grips with the cancer crisis, according to leading independent cancer treatment and diagnostic provider, Rutherford Health Plc.
The highly critical report by the Health and Social Care Committee examines the gaps in the cancer workforce and warns that gains in cancer survival are at risk of reversing. It states that the absence of a serious effort by the Government to tackle gaps in the cancer workforce is jeopardising earlier diagnosis, which is key to improving survival rates.
The report reveals that the NHS was not on track to meet its target for early cancer diagnosis. This means more than 340,000 people between 2019 and 2028 could miss out on an early diagnosis.
The progress made by the Government against targets on cancer services in England was rated as ‘inadequate’ by the Committee’s Expert Panel, which also rated progress to diagnose 75% of cancers at stage 1 or 2 by 2028 as ‘inadequate’.
Professor Karol Sikora, chief medical officer at Rutherford Health, said: “When it comes to cancer, the importance of early diagnosis cannot be overstated. The earlier we diagnose, the better the survival rates. We need to get to grips with this right away.”
To help the Government tackle the cancer backlog, Rutherford Health, which operates a network of cancer and diagnostic centres in the UK, has offered its treatment and diagnostic services to the National Health Service on a not-for-profit basis through its ‘Cancer Recovery Contract’ proposal. This includes MRI and CT scans, ultrasound services, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, immunotherapy and proton beam therapy.
Professor Sikora added: “At the moment we have capacity at our cancer centres across the country and we can make it immediately available. We have offered the NHS access to our treatment and diagnostic services on a not-for-profit basis and we standby ready to help. What matters now is patients get diagnosed and treated as quickly as possible. We must improve outcomes immediately.”
According to MPs, there was ‘no detailed plan’ to address shortages of clinical oncologists, consultant pathologists, radiologists and specialist cancer nurses with gaps threatening diagnosis, treatment and research.
Despite some progress in one-year cancer survival rates since the 1970s, outcomes in England lag behind countries such as Canada or Australia. By comparison, fewer people in England will live for five years or more diagnosed with colon cancer or stomach cancer.