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Experts urge government to reinstate a national cancer strategy

The government’s decision to drop a National Cancer Control Plan in England and Wales has been described as a “major misstep” by a group of senior clinical cancer specialists.

The government’s decision to drop a National Cancer Control Plan in England and Wales has been described as a “major misstep” by a group of senior clinical cancer specialists.

Writing in The Lancet Oncology, the group of experts said this was an “incomprehensible decision” given that all UK nations sit near the bottom of cancer league tables based on survival outcomes.

Now, they have published their own 10-point plan as a blueprint for a new cancer strategy. This plan will be launched at an event in Parliament today (15 November) in a bid to tackle the cancer crisis.

Up to 2,000 extra cases of cancer per week by 2040

In the report, The future of cancer care in the UK — time for a radical and sustainable National Cancer Plan, the experts warn that cancer already affects one in two people, but the incidence is set to increase.

Indeed, they estimate that by 2040, there will be up to 2,000 extra cancer cases per week. With the NHS already struggling to recover from the Covid pandemic, waiting lists higher than ever and a declining workforce, the experts say a new plan is needed to tackle the cancer crisis in the UK.

They say that the UK’s approach to cancer is “not working” and that, as a nation, we are performing poorly compared to other similar countries.

The plan highlights the action needed to tackle record cancer treatment waiting times, workforce shortages, and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The 10-point plan calls on the government to:

1. Create and properly resource a dedicated UK-wide National Cancer Control Plan
2. Re-establish a strengthened and more comprehensive National Cancer Research Institute
3. Deliver on the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan to provide staff with fair pay and better working conditions
4. Substantially strengthen primary care and deliver enhanced screening
5. Properly fund a UK-wide evidence-driven prevention programme
6. Integrate hospice care within the NHS to keep cancer patients out of hospitals
7. Address domain specific and vulnerable population solutions in national planning
8. Develop a digital infrastructure that delivers intelligence-driven service design, performance assessment and quality improvement.
9. Deliver a sustainable plan for equipment and infrastructure across the UK
10. Reassess governance, structure, and advice to government and NHS England for cancer.

Cancer care is fast becoming “a monumental crisis”

The experts will present their plan to the government in hopes of reintroducing a targeted cancer plan.

Professor Pat Price, joint senior author, leading oncologist and Visiting Professor Imperial College London said: “The dangerous reality is that cancer care in this country is fast becoming a monumental crisis and there appears to be no realistic plan.

“Today we face record cancer treatment waiting times with an expected increase of 2,000 extra cancer patients a week by 2040. A cancer plan is not just a strategy, it is a lifeline for the one in two of us that will get cancer.

“Cancer patients are consistently being failed, with UK cancer survival outcomes remaining near the bottom of cancer league tables. We need to address the cancer workforce crisis, deliver treatments on time and stop the situation that sees us lagging behind on cancer technologies in key areas, like radiotherapy.

“The urgent need for a cancer specific control plan is clear, and it beggars belief that clinicians are finding themselves having to produce one instead of the Government.”

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