Brinkmann Gynaecology

NHS cancer services are "close to collapse"

Cancer services in the NHS need urgent investment to prevent them from collapse under the weight of growing demand and budget cuts, a leading charity has warned.  

A report commissioned by Cancer Research UK found a leadership 'vacuum', surging demand, squeezed budgets and fragmentation of services across different organisations.  For the first time, the national target of 85% of patients starting treatment within 62 days of referral by their GP has been breached. The target was introduced in 2009.  

Experts fear that the strain will start to affect survival rates which have been improving. Far from catching up with the best performing countries in Europe, Britain will fall further behind, the charity said. 

"More people are surviving cancer than ever before.  Survival rates in the UK have doubled in the last 40 years because of research and better diagnosis and treatments. But the number of cases is also going up as the UK population ages. This combination means we'll be diagnosing more people, treating more people and helping more people recover from cancer in coming decades" says Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK. 

The reorganisation of the NHS had led to a "hiatus" in the cancer services, the report said, and confusion over which organisations have responsibility for running them.  The dedicated cancer networks have been disbanded, which is particularly problematic. 

Mike Hobday, the director of policy and research at MacMillan Cancer Support, said "These findings are consistent with our own research that cancer commissioning is in a state of utter confusion."

* Cancer research UK commissioned Health Services Management Centre at the University of Birmingham to conduct interviews and surveys with clinicians, commissioners, GPs, public health experts and patients. 

See this covered in the Daily Telegraph today.