Collaboration vital to restoring NHS cancer services

A new report has claimed that reversing the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and improving long-term cancer outcomes is only possible if the entire UK cancer community comes together in partnership.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry paper says that the UK must be more ambitious with its cancer strategy if it is to compete with the leading nations across Europe – from improving early diagnosis, reducing variations in care to using the latest medicines and treatments.

While cancer incidence has been rising in the UK, deaths have been declining and survival rates increasing pre-pandemic. However, coronavirus is widely thought to have significantly impacted every aspect of cancer care – from diagnosis and patients' willingness to present for treatment through to service delivery and follow-up care.

The report makes a number of recommendations which, if implemented, the contributors say, would lead to meaningful improvements for NHS cancer patients far beyond pandemic recovery.  

It looks at four different areas of cancer care and among the recommendations for putting cancer at the heart of the post-pandemic health service recovery plan are: demonstrating ambition in cancer strategy and funding; improving early diagnosis and treatment; reducing variation in care; and speeding up of adoption and innovation.

Paul Catchpole, Director Value and Access Policy, ABPI, said: “There seems to be overwhelming agreement from those working in cancer services that we need to look at how to improve patient pathways and bring these more in line with other countries. As we look to cautiously and safely restart services that were restricted due to Covid-19, there is an opportunity to now do things differently. It will take the combined effort of every person in the cancer community working together to deliver high-quality, consistent care to NHS patients.”

Emma Greenwood, director of Policy at Cancer Research UK, said: “The biggest barrier to improving cancer outcomes is the stage at which we’re diagnosing cancers in the UK. The British public tend to be more reluctant to go to the GP with symptoms than in other comparable countries, GPs are less likely to send patients for diagnostic tests, and we have significant issues around capacity to deliver diagnostics.”

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