The Government’s Health and Social Care Committee have issued a warning that NHS England is not making near-enough sufficient progress on detecting early stage cancers in the population. The Committee cited issues from staffing shortages, and post-pandemic delays for the delayed screening targets. 54% of cases are diagnosed at stages one and two, and the aim is to diagnose 75% of cases in the early stages by 2028. Despite the ambitions and will from charities and organisations, there has been no clear improvement in early detection in six years.
The Committee has warned that more than 340,000 people could miss out on an early cancer diagnosis. DHSC has flagged its development of a new 10-year cancer plan (to which BIVDA has compiled an IVD industry response), and a network of 160 diagnostic community centres being put into operation for local, in-person screening. The Department has also pointed to the £8 billion in funding promised by the Government over the next three years to cut backlogs, deliver the community diagnostic centres, and an extra 9 million checks, scans and operations by 2025.
A 52-page report on cancer services has been published by the Committee, and an inquiry by the cross-party group found an absence of detailed planning to tackle shortages of “clinical oncologists, consultant pathologists, radiologists and specialist cancer nurses”.
The report states that around 4.6million fewer key diagnostic tests were carried out between March 2020 and March 2021. In the same times-span, 326,000 fewer people in England received an urgent referral for suspected cancer.
“This report sounds the alarm to government, loud and clear, about the severe staff shortages within the NHS and sheer lack of realistic targets in place to fill the gaps,” said Minesh Patel, the head of policy at Macmillan Cancer Support. “This is causing huge anxiety for people living with cancer.”