The struggle of the NHS cancer service

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Cancer Research UK has warned that NHS cancer services in England are at a crucial point after the recent NHS reforms and the years of efficiency savings.

The charity reported that the services are in dire need of investment or the cracks will start to appear. The group has called for larger funding for diagnosis of cancer to allow for the potential demands of an aging population.

However, cancer service leaders have stated that survival rates have not been higher than they are today.
During 2013/14, in excess of 1.4 million English patients were referred by their GPs with suspected cancer. This is an increase of 50% from 2009/10.

The report, which was commissioned by Cancer Research UK and carried out by experts based at ICF CHK Consulting and the University of Birmingham, states that the capacity to respond to the demand is no longer available.

Researchers have asked for an urgent review into how the services are managed across the NHS, as well as a review into the service leadership.

The chief executive of Cancer Research UK, Harpal Kumar, said that the cancer services in the NHS have managed very well. Kumar stated that staff have done their best in the face of huge changes, reduced budgets, bad leadership and increased demand. However, this is not able to continue for an indefinite period.

Kumar said that more people are surviving cancer than before. Survival rates have doubled in the UK over the past four decades, due to better diagnosis and treatments being implemented through research. However, as the population ages, the number of cases is increasing. It will be necessary for the NHS to meet this demand and to efficiently do that it will need higher investment, leadership and planning.

The national clinical director for cancer at NHS England, Sean Duffy, said the NHS is seeing 50% more patients that it did four years ago and the survival rates are at an all-time high. Duffy said that around 90% of the cancer patients state that their care is very good or excellent. However, it is suitable for Cancer Research UK to highlight the requirement for unified services between local and specialist services.

The public health minister, Jane Ellison, said the government has given priority to cancer by investing three quarters of a billion pounds over four years for the improvement of early diagnosis and suitable treatment.

Image Credit: kate hiscock

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